Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Three Generations of Santa

That's me delivering gifts to Dwight Klassen's grandchildren.

            Christmas is just around the corner.  Yes, “Christmas.”  Some people seem to be offended by the word, "Christmas."   When the true meaning of Christmas is discarded, all the "holiday" amounts to is a shopping spree.  No one will ever hear me say, “happy holidays” or refer to a Christmas tree as a “holiday tree.”  You'll notice that "Christmas" is a word that has dropped out of America's vocabulary almost entirely. Years ago I predicted that after Christ was taken out of Christmas, the next to go would be Santa Claus.  It's already begun.

            Since I got personal in my Thanksgiving post and my "tongue in cheek" depiction of men in the kitchen, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into another tradition in the Higgins family.  This goes way back to a time when I was just a few years past the fetus stage.  In other words, I was just a little tike.  Unfortunately I don’t have photographic evidence of those early years.  Cameras hadn’t been invented yet and the cave paintings we left on the walls are buried under a shopping mall, but I’ll describe the scene.   

            On Christmas Eve my brother Tom and I would anxiously anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus.  My mother had briefed us on the fact that if Santa heard us or saw us, he’d leave without dropping off our presents.  We scurried around the small house on 24th street in San Jose looking for a hiding place and waiting for the sounds of reindeer hoofs on the roof.  My dad would say that he had to leave the house to get a loaf of bread, but promised he’d try to be back in time to see Santa. 

            Time passed slowly, then we heard it.  The sound of sleigh bells ringing from somewhere outside.  My mother hurried us into our hiding places where we could see without being seen.  Santa was coming to our house.  I could hear my heart beating like a jack hammer.  My little brother wet his pants.

            Suddenly the front door creaked open – we didn’t have a chimney – and slowly a guy with a huge white beard and a red suit crept into the living room.  Lit by the lights on the Christmas tree, the scene was well staged and it was very effective.  Very dramatic.

            Santa looked around to be certain the kids were asleep.  He moved silently to the tree and slid the big sack off his back, slowly placing colorfully wrapped packages under the tree.  Occasionally he would quickly turn his head as though he heard something, but would then go back to his task.

            When all the packages were under the tree, Santa turned and left the house, darting furtive glances over his shoulder to be sure no one was observing.  After we heard the sleigh bells again, we knew that Santa and his reindeer were in the air and on their way to the next house.  At that point it was pandemonium. We rushed the tree as our mother tried to control our brutal attack on the presents.  She tried to save the wrapping paper, but her efforts were futile.

            So that’s what Christmas Eve was like when I was a kid.  Years later, my brother Tom and I used the same formula and took turns being Santa for our own kids.  By the way, Tom didn’t wet his pants as previously reported. 

            Tom and Sharon have two daughters, as do I.  I’ve included a photo of the four girls peeking over a barrier at my parent’s house in Los Gatos as one of us played Santa.  My mother made the costume, which we still have.
Daughters Kimi, Shannon, Juliane, Keri waiting for Santa

            I always enjoyed playing the role of Santa and I remember the excitement when I began the charade.  Fear of my cotton eyebrows falling off and trying to see through the antique glasses that belonged to my grandfather were challenges.  The kids would leave cookies and milk out for Santa, so I had to try to eat and drink through my phony beard.  If you’ve never tasted cotton mixed with chocolate chip cookies and milk, you don’t know what you’ve missed.

My brother Tom getting help from our mother
A younger me getting ready
 Then came the grandkids.  By this time I was pretty good at playing Santa and I actually resemble him with my beard and “jolly old elf” ways, but it was shocking to discover that I didn’t need a pillow to pad the suit anymore. 

      So far that tradition of enacting Santa’s visit has spanned three generations, just as it was started by my dad back in the ‘40s.  He was the best.  I did the Santa thing for Gayle’s grandkids, as well as mine, and the grandchildren of my old buddy Dwight Klassen.  I only have one little granddaughter left to entertain. 

Johnny, grandson Gabriel, daughter Juliane spying from our balcony
            Whether anyone picks up the ball to carry on the old Santa ruse is a question, but if not, this mini-drama entertained three generations of kids. 

         I know the kids enjoyed it, but not as much as my dad, my brother, and I enjoyed being Santa and seeing their reactions.  But I could have done without trying to eat a cookie through a milk-soaked cotton beard.

 Standing for inspection by Gayle



  1. You make a great Santa Ralph. This is a very nice Christmas story and what good guy's you and Tom were to the children. I wish you and Gayle a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Your ole pal Jim

  2. Thanks, Jim. When the kids were young, Tom and I had two large parcels in Scotts Valley right next to each other. All four of our girls had a horse and five or six acres to run on, not to mention the adjacent mountains, etc. All the neighborhood kids had horses too, so there were times when you'd see all the kids in the neighborhood racing around our property on horses. Those were good times.

  3. What a GREAT Santa you make... wait a minute... maybe TOO good... the nose, the beard, the jolly cheeks, the glint in the eyes... I KNEW Santa was real!!! You sly guy, hiding this from us the other 364 days of the year!!

    1. And here I thought I had done a good job hiding up here in the forest. Mrs. Claus will make a Christmas fruitcake for you if you keep this discovery to yourself. Better yet, we can barbeque an elf for you if you don't tell anyone.

  4. Ralph ---I hope you and Gayle can keep that special "CHRISTMAS" spirit for all of your kids and grandkids-----

    1. It's their turn now, Allan, but whether or not they continue the Santa thing, they do carry that special "Christmas" spirit. It's good to hear from you, Allan.