Christmas memory: Visiting Santa

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 14, 2009

By Beth Landry
For the Salisbury Post
One of my fondest Christmas memories is of going to see Santa at Christmas Village in my hometown of Torrington, Conn.
I can still remember the excitement and anticipation, standing in line and waiting for the big black wrought-iron gate to open. Once it opened, only a small group of people were allowed to pass through before it closed again. I would try to guess how many times that gate would open before it was our turn to go in. The wait always seemed like an eternity.
Once inside, there was another wait, standing under the covered walkway that connected two beautiful old brick buildings with gingerbread trim and leaded glass windows. There was a heavy wooden door that would open, only allowing a few people in at a time. I would stare at that door, just knowing what was on the other side.
I will never forget the feeling of walking through that door and entering the most wonderfully enchanting room. After a long wait in often bitter cold temperatures, we would be treated to the smell of pine and wood smoke, and the warmth from a crackling fire in a huge stone fireplace. The room was dark, illuminated only by the fire and what seemed like thousands of little white lights that resembled stars against a dark blue ceiling. The walls were covered with toys and tinsel, and the entire room sparkled.
And there in the corner, sitting on a big throne, was Santa Claus. I don’t remember one thing I ever asked him for, or one thing he ever said to me, but I will never forget the feeling of being in that room and sitting on Santa’s lap.
Then it was out the back door, and on to the next building. Walking through that door was an entirely different experience. It was bright and lively and full of sights and sounds. Santa’s elves, Tippy, Skippy and Elmer, were busy hammering and sawing, building toys. A little mechanical monkey would climb up and down a rope, and trains ran on tracks around the room. The elves wore suits and hats of red and green, and had little white beards and wore spectacles.
Once, when one of the elves caught my eye, he waved to me with his little white gloved hand, and it nearly took my breath away. Imagine, Santa’s elf was actually waving and smiling at me! I felt very special.
From there, we would go outside to see the reindeer. Each reindeer had his own little house with his name on it, and we would feed them carrots that we brought from home. We would stop by one of the big barrels of fire to warm our hands before going on to see Rudolph, complete with a red painted nose, and his little friend Snowflake, a fawn with white spots.
From there, we would get a chance to sit in Santa’s sleigh for a minute. The last stop would be a walk down a small path to kneel in front of a life-sized nativity. There we would listen to beautiful carols that were softly playing, and I would stare at the baby in the manger and be reminded of the real meaning of Christmas.
A few years ago, I was blessed to be able to visit Christmas Village again with my sister and her granddaughter. It had been nearly 40 years since I had been there. I sat on Santa’s lap and asked him if he remembered me, and guess what? He did!
The whole experience was as wonderful and magical as it was when I was a little girl, and I am very thankful for my wonderful Christmas memories.
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