It starts off very subtly. A brief comment, "I think I heard bells" then back to the conversation. A little while later, "did you see something fly past the window?" then back to the conversation.
Finally, after dinner, someone near the fireplace exclaims, "I think I heard something land on the roof!" Adults look expectantly at one another, "do you think?" The children can sense the magic at hand. An aunt or uncle, mommy or daddy stoops in front of the fireplace and yells up the chimney, "Santa? Is that you?" And finally, from the chimney you hear "Ho Ho Ho!"
The boys and girls are gathered around the fireplace, some nervous, some wide-eyed, all excited. One by one, each child is introduced and gets his turn to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas. Sometimes, an older brother or sister is pressed into duty for an unwilling, younger sibling.
Finally, after everyone's had their turn, Santa climbs back into his sleigh and flies off into the night. But not before leaving gifts for these good little children. Each adult in the room takes hold of the nearest child and runs to the door and out into the cold. Staring into the sky in search of a miniature sleigh being pulled by eight tiny reindeer.
It's a tradition that's been going on in Andy's family for more than a generation. It's my family's tradition. Someday, I will watch my grandchildren crouch by the fireplace while magic happens.
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