My younger brother and I had it all planned out. We were ready to do it.
If we could wake up in the middle of the night – the best night of the year, Christmas Eve night –
yes, we could do it. The first one who gets up wakes up the other, or better yet, one of us stays awake and waits for the best time. Then we execute our plan.
We had been planning this adventure for days. And now that special night had come. We knew we couldn’t fail!
All we had to do was crawl or stoop low or walk like a crouching burglar down the hall and through the kitchen. The kitchen had no door on the hallway side, so there wouldn’t be any sound from a twisting doorknob or latch.
Once in the kitchen, though, we would have to open the swinging door to the dining room on the other side. And since the dining room had a clear view to the living room – where the Christmas tree was located every year – we would fulfill our sneakiness by capturing Santa Claus just as he begins to put gifts out.
It was such a good plan that a seven-year-old and a five-year-old (which we were) could figure it out and get it done. And once we caught Santa with our “Rifleman” cap rifles that Santa brought us last year, we would then and only then alert our parents upstairs.
Our parents would be so proud. They would take pictures of us with the one and only Santa Claus, not the imitation ones who hang out at Sears with the pretty helpers. We would then take the pictures and show them to all those kids who deny the reality of Santa Claus. It would make the front page of the newspaper. We will forever be heroes. And we could tell all those doubters, “I told you so,” over and over again. We were wringing our hands in anticipation.
Now that Christmas Eve was here, it was time to proceed. I was in my twin bed, and my younger brother Roy was a few feet away in his own twin bed, a nightstand separating us. Mom put us to bed around 9:00, the usual time, and I faked having my eyes completely closed as she turned out the light and left the entry door ajar.
I did not sleep. I could swear I didn’t. My brother, however, was obviously not into our scheme. After just a few minutes, his mouth was hanging partly open and he had that slow, measured breathing when someone really is sound asleep. I thought to myself, Let him sleep for now. He’ll be into the plan once I wake him up and we start carrying it out.
I was nervous. What if Santa wasn’t going to come tonight and all our planning was wasted? What if – horrors – those naysaying kids at school were actually right? But, this is our big chance – whatever was to happen, we were sure to make history one way or another, we thought.
A very long time went by, and my eyes were feeling like they wanted to stick together after so long a fight to keep them open. I was doing all I could to stay awake – thinking about cowboy adventures in Roy Rogers shows, or how Bat Masterson used his baton to conquer the bad guys, or how Sky King piloted in to rescue his niece Penny. Those old shows were broadcast in endless re-runs so much that we could quote some of the words of the cowboys exactly as if they said them the first time.
Finally, it was time.
I tugged my bedsheets off and away, and I pivoted my legs over so my feet hit the floor in the space between our beds. I shook Roy hard enough to get him to open his eyes on the first shake.
“C’mon, Roy, let’s go get Santa Claus!” Roy looked up at me unenthusiastically and tossed his own sheets to the side. But he was still lying there. Then he flopped onto his side facing away from me. So, I pulled his foot down and most of Roy, up to his chest, came thrashing involuntarily off the bed.
Roy stood up. He was blinking hard, but at least he was standing up. But he just stood there. So, I pushed his back a little in the direction of our door, and my push made him stumble but not fall. Good thing he hadn’t fallen; that noise would have alarmed our parents, who somehow always knew a lot about Santa’s gifts and when or if he would come.
We opened our bedroom door and, since I was then the taller one, I periscoped my whole head out of the door opening and scanned the hallway down to the kitchen. Roy remembered our cap guns, and he handed mine to me as we tiptoed out the door in the direction of the kitchen.
When we reached the other side of the kitchen, the one with the swinging door, we stopped and looked at each other as if reflecting on the seriousness of what we were about to do. We pushed the door open as gently as we could in hopes of avoiding that crazy popping sound one of the hinges made.
“We need to crawl into the dining room. If Santa is in there we don’t want him to find us looking at him before we can draw our guns and get the drop on him,” I instructed Roy, whose hand was on my back.
“Right,” Roy agreed in a whisper.
We crawled into the dining room over the sculpted carpeting with our cap-gun rifles held low. We took up positions under the dining room table just as we had planned. Roy tapped on his gun and looked at me, as if to remind me to have it ready and express his pride for remembering to bring our weapons.
We could see through the table and chair legs that Santa had not yet arrived. He had not drunk the milk or eaten the cookies we set out, nor had the reindeer eaten the fresh carrots Roy asked Mom to peel and leave out for the reindeer. (Mom loved his concern for animals of all kinds, even reindeer.) Mainly we could tell because there were no presents under the tree.
We lay on our stomachs, with our heads towards the living room and both of us clutched cap guns under our shoulders. Nothing moved or made a sound for a long time. Then we heard the living room mantle clock drip off the time with 11 chimes.
That’s the last thing I remembered through that night. Those chimes announced it was 11:00 at night, and I wasn’t conscious at all after that.
A gruff voice called out, “Boys, time to get up.” It was our dad. He had that distinctive loud and low voice, tinged with an accent, that left no doubt it was him, and we must get up.
Pushing ourselves up from the floor, I noticed Roy had the imprint of the sculpted carpeting on the side of his face. Roy’s hair was sticking straight up on the same side as the carpet impression. I couldn’t help but laugh at him. He smacked his lips a couple of times, not getting what was so funny just yet, then rubbing his eyes he looked into the living room.
“Santa came! Santa came!” he exclaimed. He only knew that because in front of the now-lighted Christmas tree, there was the bike he wanted replete with training wheels. The bike had a bow on it and a card that read ‘From Santa: to Roy.’
And there was my bike, too, behind Roy’s bike with a bow and the same note. A different color, maybe just a little bigger, but it was standing on its kickstand. No training wheels for me! I don’t need them anymore; Santa seemed to know these things somehow.
We forgot all about our cap guns and left them under the dining room table. I banged the top of my head trying to get out from under there, and this time Roy laughed at me. We ran so fast into the living room that we would have gotten carpet burn on the bottoms of our feet if the distance had been longer.
As I surveyed my new bike and pondered the generosity of North Pole gift-givers, I remembered our sneaky little plan. And then it hit me! Our Dad had told us to wake up, but we weren’t under the dining room table; we were in our beds still. My cover was off me, and Roy’s was still over him from his feet to the back of his neck. I had just dreamed about being under the table, and my Dad’s voice had called me back to reality.
But Santa had delivered in spite of us. We were not successful in our sneaky little mission, but we felt successful because the bikes Santa brought were exactly what we wanted. And I wondered if we could try again next year, or even if we would then have the nerve as well as the ability to actually stay awake.
I’m sure dad also wondered why on earth had we brought our cap guns with us.
Louis A. Will is a native of Louisville, Kentucky, who now lives in the beautiful bluegrass region of central Kentucky. He retired from a business nearly two years ago, and he and his wife Linda enjoy spending time together and with their twin granddaughters.