The Day I Met Santa

I almost didn’t write this because I swore I’d never tell anyone what I’m about to tell you. But I have to.

A few weeks ago I received a letter postmarked from Nunavut, Canada. An invitation said that I had been selected along with a few other writers for an exclusive, one-on-one interview with a very important person who wears a red suit and owns a lot of reindeer and is not Oprah Winfrey.

The next day, I was on a plane from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, flying to Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport. Our plane landed in a bunch of Midwestern gray snow. And I mean a bunch of snow.

Milwaukee was as cold as a witch’s underwire. I don’t know why anyone would choose to live in Milwaukee in the winter. Which brings up a joke my mother’s friend Judy, from Milwaukee always tells:

“What do you call a good looking man on the streets of Milwaukee?” “Frozen to death.”

So the layover wasn’t too bad. Neither were my other connecting flights to Tacoma, British Columbia, and Fairbanks International Airport.

When I reached Alaska, things were touch-and-go. I caught a commuter flight to Deadhorse Airport, near Prudhoe Bay—which is basically the edge of the world where the temperature drops to forty below zero sometimes.

The next commuter plane was piloted by a Norwegian guy named Arvid who, while we were flying through a heavy blizzard, remarked, “I have never flown in an actual blizzard before.”

So things were going great. When we finally touched down, Arvid made the Sign of the Cross, and I changed my trousers.

We were on the remote Fosheim Peninsula at a research facility on Ellesmere Island. This facility has been continuously manned since 1947 and was covered in about ten feet of snowdrift. But the men who run the place are very friendly. Which is remarkable considering they are isolated from modern civilization and most of them smell like they have never been in a committed relationship with a woman.

Jôrse showed me to my room. Jôrse is from Nuuk. He speaks five languages, but his native tongue is Greenlandic like most guys here. Greenlandic is only used by only about 60,000 people worldwide.

Jôrse taught me how to say a few important Greenlandic words like“inuugujaq,” which means “good afternoon.” And “baaj” which either means “hello” or “I’m gonna cut you, sucker.” Jôrse’s explanation wasn’t clear on this.

Before supper, I took a three-minute hot shower. Energy conservation is a big deal on the island, showers are limited. This is probably why the whole facility smells like the laundry bag for the boys varsity basketball team.

That night, we ate supper in the cafeteria where they served what looked like freeze-dried beef brains, only less appetizing. I asked the cook what the dish was. He shouted, “Wslfwie weoinwoei jwoeinrwksepo sefsdifoi!”

And everyone laughed. So since the crowd was nice and warmed up, I told another Milwaukee joke.

The next morning, Jôrse flew us north toward the Arctic Ocean. The sun never came out, and the white tundra was lit by the glow of the moon.

At the last outpost—which was just a little shack—a snowmobile arrived. The driver kicked open the door and told me and Jôrse to get in. On our ride, I noticed the driver had pointy ears and I got all excited.

“Are you an elf?” I asked.

He said, “We prefer to be called Allegorical Northwestern Europeans.”

After driving two hours, we arrived at what looked like a ski lodge on steroids. It was the biggest structure I’ve ever seen, and trust me, I’ve been to Talladega Superspeedway.

Our driver unloaded our luggage then held out his hand and cleared his throat loudly, refusing to leave until Jôrse tipped him no less than a fifty.

“Elves,” said Jôrse.

Inside the lodge was a roaring fireplace, an all-you-can-eat buffet, and a floor show with Kenny Rogers, who I hardly recognized because—let’s be honest—Kenny has had a little work done.

I met writers from all over the world who received the same postmarked invitations I received. And we were all very pumped about meeting the big guy.

“So,” one of the writers asked me, “you’re from Florida, huh?”

“Yeah,” I said. “What about you?”

“Milwaukee.”

“Really?” I said. “Wanna hear a joke?”

“Sure,” he said. “But first, did you hear about the tragic fire at Florida State University library?”

“No.”

“The fire destroyed all the books on campus, and most of them hadn’t even been colored in yet.”

After supper, a pointy-eared Allegorical Northwestern European led us all to an enormous factory. And I would tell you more about it, but I have to pause right here. Because we had to sign a non-disclosure agreement stating that we would refrain from cellphone photography and written descriptions, or else we would be in a lot of legal trouble.

So without breaching my agreement, I’ll skip to the good part. Eventually we all arrived at a big wooden door labeled “Office.” And we all waited for our turn.

When it was my turn, I almost fainted. I stepped inside. I took a deep breath. And I saw the person I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet. The one and only. The legend of all legends. Oprah Winfrey.

No. I mean it was Santa Claus. And it was utterly magic. Santa Claus is the one of the best things humanity ever made because he is an image of what we could be.

Sadly, I can’t share anything more than this. But before I leave you, I want to tell you what I was thinking about when I was in Santa’s office.

I was thinking of Laney, an 8-year-old girl from Texas who sent me a heartfelt letter recently. She wrote, “Is Santa real? I need him to be real this year.”

I wish more than anything that I could show you a cellphone picture of it all, Laney. Because if you saw it, you’d believe me. And you’d know. But legally speaking, I can’t take that chance. Because if I did, a judge might sentence me to live in Milwaukee.

Santa Claus is alive and well. And don’t you forget it.

26 comments

  1. Sharon Lawson - December 18, 2019 7:05 am

    What a wonderful story with your own personal touch!

    Reply
  2. Karen - December 18, 2019 7:22 am

    There is a special place in Heaven for you.

    Reply
  3. Harriet - December 18, 2019 7:44 am

    Wonderful.

    Reply
  4. Sandi. - December 18, 2019 9:04 am

    Yes, Sean, there is a Santa Claus.

    Reply
  5. sparkerlpc - December 18, 2019 9:50 am

    I love this…..and I bet Laney does, too!

    Reply
  6. Barb - December 18, 2019 11:01 am

    Absolutely delightful! Merry Christmas, Sean.

    Reply
  7. Robin - December 18, 2019 11:04 am

    Hey, I live north of Milwaukee, lol. 😉

    Reply
  8. Barb - December 18, 2019 11:14 am

    Thank you, we too really need Santa to be real this year.

    Reply
  9. Ann - December 18, 2019 11:46 am

    Next to the reason for the season…Santa belief is beautiful ….and sugar plums🎄❤️

    Reply
  10. Hope Thamert - December 18, 2019 1:01 pm

    my Best Christmas present. An updated. Yes Virginia letter. 👍❤️ You always make my morning

    Reply
  11. Beth Todd - December 18, 2019 1:02 pm

    Thank you, Sean! You have confirmed what this 65 year old always wondered! Just wish I could have gone with you! ❤️

    Reply
  12. Sharon Brock - December 18, 2019 1:50 pm

    Last year, I was able to show four Santa doubters that Santa exists. I am 67 and I still believe. I brought up the NORAD site where the U.S. Air Force tracks the Big Guy as he crisscrosses the globe. My 17 year old granddaughter’s eyes widened considerably. I also brought up the 1966 Apollo 6 astronaut sighting of the Big Guy FROM SPACE which impressed everybody.

    Reply
  13. Norman Purdue - December 18, 2019 2:05 pm

    Sean, love to read your submissions. Need a list of your books.

    Reply
  14. Donna - December 18, 2019 2:24 pm

    Magic… funniest ever!

    Reply
  15. Shelton A. - December 18, 2019 2:30 pm

    Wanna hear a Milwaukee joke? No, seriously, Santa Claus is the best of the giving side in all of us. Pretty funny stuff, Sean. Want to live in Milwaukee?

    Reply
  16. Linda Moon - December 18, 2019 2:41 pm

    I can’t comment much right now because I need a little Christmas in the form of scheduled scans. Laney, Santa in all glorious forms, is real. Sean, next time you’re at the Talladega Speedway, find your way over to Oak Hill, and try not to get lost! And, if you do get lost, toss the GPS and just ask a local citizen for good directions!!

    Reply
  17. Patricia Gibson - December 18, 2019 3:25 pm

    Santa is definitely real! Love you Sean

    Reply
  18. Elizabeth - December 18, 2019 4:27 pm

    One of your best! Dang lawyers, would kill for a picture!

    Reply
  19. Nicole Mulhausen - December 18, 2019 5:31 pm

    So good.

    This reminds me of the year my young son received a real elf hat for Christmas. He was delighted for a full two seconds, and then his face fell. With a quavering voice, he whispered, “Did and elf have to DIE for me to have this hat?!”

    I don’t think he ever got over it.

    Reply
  20. Chasity Davis Ritter - December 18, 2019 5:54 pm

    I always try my hardest to believe in the Santa that Virginia was told about and that Laney needs to be real. This time of year I look for it and pray about it and sometimes am fortunate enough to see in different ways. I’m thankful for the stories you share that also let us know Santa doesn’t take the other 11 months if the year off just to stock up on his toy building. He’s alive and well and sharing those acts of kindness the whole year through… its kinda like they say in Spider-Man… anyone can wear the suit… funny they are both red too. But as far as the real man if there ever was and is a real one I believe in him too. I truly believe I met him 23 years ago. I’ll never forget it So for the Laneys out there and the VirginiasAnd even the Seans and Chasitys Santa is real and he always will be

    Reply
  21. Berryman Mary M - December 18, 2019 7:31 pm

    Sean, your Christmas writings has been poignant, funny, bittersweet and sometimes sad, but you have been “hitting it out of the park”. Thanks so much

    Reply
  22. Berryman Mary M - December 18, 2019 7:34 pm

    P. S. When we share kindness, compassion and love, Santa lives in all of us.

    Reply
  23. Jess - December 18, 2019 8:56 pm

    Good column as usual, Sean. And I agree with you: Kenny Rogers has had some work done.

    Reply
  24. Phil S. - December 19, 2019 12:57 am

    Everyone needs to see the Polar Express, and more importantly, Miracle on 34th Street – not the two remakes, which are also good, but the 1947 B & W original. I repeat myself here, but can’t hold back: When my wife and I were dating back about 1963, Christmas was approaching, and she asked if I wanted to watch the Miracle on 34th Street on TV. Dumb me replied that i had never heard of it. She gave me the look that said , “WHAT?! You’re going to hell!” needless to say, we watched it, and it has become a tradition with us ever since.

    Now, go melt those North Pole icicles out of your beard.

    Reply
  25. Laurence w church - December 19, 2019 5:00 am

    Bless this girl. Bring only good to her.

    Reply
  26. Jon Dragonfly - December 21, 2019 6:04 pm

    Yes, Laney, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Laneys.
    No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever.

    Merry Christmas, Laney.

    Reply

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