A Boy's Christmas on 188th Street

Once upon a Christmas Eve many years ago
When I was a wide-eyed young boy
My head was full of anticipated Christmas joys
That were to come in the morning when all would be merry and bright
Where, amidst the wrappings of all those presents “upon the tree”
There would be Christmas cheer for everyone, including little old me.

Weeks on end, children of all ages
(even some adults, too—though they would never admit it)
Would wait
For the arrival of that jolly man in the bright red suit and his gift-giving spree.
I knew in my heart Santa was coming and not just to me
He was coming and all was made ready—
The mere thought of it made me even more heady with delight.

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The decorations were all decked out and so was that fabulous Christmas tree
And other wonderful sights
(including the stenciled Christmas snow on the windows)
To the enchantment of all, including little old me.
I knew Santa was coming to the place where I lived
In that one-and-only Bronx fifth-floor walkup, on 188th Street, you see,
Santa went all over—everywhere—where Christmas was meant to be.

Once that magical night came and everything was in place and all was set
There was one more thing to do before Santa entered with his “Ho, ho, ho!” yet—
The cookies (chocolate chip) and whole milk
(not the 2% percent kind—skimming would not do)
Were placed on the table with care
Knowing that good ol’ Santa would very soon would be there.

But there was one more thing I had to do
Before all was said and done
I planted myself squarely in that big easy chair before that fake fireplace
(with the logs that you plugged in to make it look all so real)
And made ready to greet the great bearded man face-to-face, one-on-one.

To no avail did my mother convince me to go to bed
For, determined was I, to be a witness to the Christmas ahead
That I stayed at my post snuggled in that easy chair.
All kinds of reasons were given to me about letting Santa do his job
And I did not care to listen; I would stay up all the night (if possible)
To see him.
(Dad was the fourth wise man; he let Mom be the one to try to explain it all.)

Santa was coming, that I knew
Even if we had no real fireplace
And the chimney did not exist
He could climb in through the window or saunter through the front door
And as long as he came, that was what mattered, all the more—to little old me.

Of course, my grandiose plan failed
And evidently Santa I did not see
Mom, being Mom, knew better
And armored me for the winter's night with blanket and pillow
So I might rest with my dreams that good ol’ Santa was coming
To somebody like little old me.

Christmas morning came and I, of course, woke up—
Naturally, I did not meet Santa, but underneath that Christmas tree
There was the evidence of all of Santa’s work, signs for all to see,
The glitter and the trappings and the sparkle of that wonderful tree
Was in plain sight of everyone, including little old me.

But there was something else that Santa left nearby
And it was so small that it actually loomed so large—
It was a delicate little Manger scene,
And it looked so small along with the presents and all the rest.
But Santa knew what he was doing on that Christmas Day
When he put Mary and Joseph beside Jesus sleeping on the hay
To tell a story of love and glory, really showing us how to live the “Way.”
That was really was the Gift he wanted to show that sleepy boy
(and others as well) to know
That the Lord and Savior came by our way
And literally “pitch his tent” among us, and—
He would be with us, forever.

Many years have gone since that Christmas Eve night
And that little boy
Who is now almost as old as good ol’ Santa himself—
Often looks back (especially at this time of year)
With that wide-eyed wonder he once had (and really never lost),
And remembers,
That Gift Santa left behind on 188th Street
For that sleepy young boy
Who was once “little old me.”

Merry Christmas!

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