Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Christmas Secret!

Shhhhh!...
When I was growing up. I had a Christmas secret that always made me smile.  Not the I-can't-wait grin of anticipation, but the cat-with-whiskers-full-of-cream variety.  You see...I believed I had an "in" with the Big Guy Up North...a connection no other child possessed.  My very own grandmother was an official North Pole employee with the title "Santa's Helper."  Her name was Patta Gray.

Patta and Richard Gray on their 50th Anniversary

Santa's Helper at Work...
She confided this to me when I was very young, and I believed her.  Why wouldn't I?  Her house was filled with dolls and toys all year long!  Not to mention she excelled in making gingerbread cakes and cookies with brown sugar topping.  And she was soft and pink and smelled delicious...just like Mrs. Santa Claus must.

Shirley, Mike and little sister Patti on a visit to Grandma Patta's.

Sometimes I got to visit for a few days.  Grandma Patta and I spent the time up to our elbows in fabric scraps and patterns.  The bodice of grandma's dress was studded with straight pins in lieu of a pincushion, keeping her hands free to cut and stitch the tiny clothes for all of Santa's dolls.  With my awkward "help" she made designer outfits for Barbie, chic Chanel-style suits with real mink collars...just like Jackie Kennedy wore.   Ruffled dresses for Chatty Cathy were next on the list, adorned with yards and yards of lace trimming.  Even G.I. Joe got a new uniform or two!  (Grandma hated Joe's big floppy feet...it made him hard to dress.)

Chatty Cathy...I didn't like her for some reason...she looked kind of bratty.

In the evenings, Grandpa Rich would get out his tools and work on the Barbie-size furniture he designed.  He made four-poster beds and pink vanities with little gold knobs.  The closet had sliding doors and rods filled with little pink hangers.  With a hammer and wee brass tacks, he patiently upholstered miniature sofas and chairs.  I was lucky enough to receive some of his furniture for Christmas one year.


My first Barbie looked like this one.

My first Ken had this fuzzy hair that came off if he got wet.

A Test of Faith...
I felt so special being let in on such an important secret.  There were times I was tempted to brag about Grandma's unique job.  But the kids I played with were starting to say awful things about Santa...that he didn't exist!  Grandma had a saying...something about pearls before swine.  Her secret was too precious to waste on non-believers.

As the years went by, it became more difficult to keep the faith.  The pressure was on from friends and siblings to admit that Santa Claus was a hoax.  But I stubbornly clung to the hope that they were wrong.  One Christmas Eve I lined my dolls up on the couch so Santa could see that I took good care of my toys.  My brother Mike teased me for being such a baby.  "There's no such thing as Santa," he snickered.


Patti Play Pal. 
I found out the hard way one Christmas morning that Grandma Zetta's lipstick is forever!
Poor Patti Play Pal!

A few minutes later, Mom came into the room and told us to get ready to go to Grandma's.  It was almost time for Santa to come and pick up the doll clothes and take them back to the North Pole.  He was a bit behind schedule and the elves needed to get the dolls dressed.  I smirked when I saw the startled expression on Mike's face.  He'd see!

Still...something deep inside nagged at me all the way to Lehi, where my grandparents lived.  "He's not coming," the voice of doubt informed me.  "He's not real."  I remembered everything my friends had told me.  They said it was all a big lie...our parents bought the toys and pretended to be Santa.

Miss Revlon had pierced ears!

Waiting and Waiting...
While the adults visited at Grandma's, I squirmed on the sofa.  Anticipation and dread played tag in my stomach and I couldn't eat the cookies grandma had made.  When you are a child, minutes seem like hours, and waiting is torture.  He's not coming.

As I squeezed my eyes shut and focused all my faith into a wish...I heard the silver tinkle of sleigh bells.  I knew that if I opened my eyes, the magic wouldn't work.  But the sound of boots on the front porch stamping off the snow seemed real enough.  Grandma hurried to the door.

How I remember Santa...so many years ago.

"Merry Christmas!" a hearty voice boomed.  When I opened my eyes, a man in red stood in the doorway shaking snow off his whiskers.  I watched in awe as Santa reached into his sack and pulled out a candy cane for each of us.  My little sisters danced about with excitement and forgot to say thank you.  But I remembered!  He winked at me, restoring my faith for another year.

Grandma made doll clothes for many years after that, taking orders from neighbors and friends.  Even when I was finally too old to believe in Santa Claus, she still personified the Spirit of Christmas.  I wish my own children could have known her.

Cute little brother Tommy and sister Lisa came along some years after this story.
Look at their sweet little faces.  I miss these little kids.

"May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white..."



5 comments:

pattipie said...

Awesome story. I still believe to this day that Grandma was Santa's Helper!

Holly- Cutie Pie Cottage said...

Aw, what a sweet grandma. I only had one grandma and only knew her until I was 5. I hold on tight to those memories and try to make good memories with my own grands...

Santa was the only man in my life when I was a little girl and I was heart broken when I found out he wasn't "real". I really resented it! Funny how we all react. ♥

LBP said...

What a sweet story!!! I still believe!

I still have my Chatty Cathy. I didn't like her either. But I loved my Barbies and first one was just like yours and I still have her.

Blessings

Linda

Lynn said...

Oh Shirley,
That sweet sweet story has touched my heart! Oh what a special lady your Grandmother must have been and such a sweet spirit to help you keep that special Christmas spirit and the Magic of the Season!! I would have loved to have some of the handmade doll clothes and the hand made furniture. I did not live in the same town as my Grandma West, so I did not get the handmade Barbie clothes and doll clothes like my Mountain cousins did. I always felt out of place when I visited. I never felt like I fitted in anywhere either with my Mom's family, my real father's family, or my Step-Father's Family. At the time when I was a child I noticed it and asked my Mommy why I never got handmade stuff from my Grandmothers liked my cousins did and she said it was because I was special and they bought me store bought things instead. I can remember telling her I didn't want to be special and I wanted the cute stuff like my cousins got!
Big hugs to you and you are so lucky to have special Grandmother's that you were blessed with!! I have made a promise to myself and each of my children that I will not treat my future grandchildren different from each other. Each one will know that he/she is loved and cherished.
hugs,

My Crafty Little Page said...

I'm with you - I like the slutty Barbie with blue eyeshadow much more than that obnoxious Chatty Cathy. These are wonderful memories you have of your grandmother and I loved this story. Keep the faith! xo Nancy