All the following is true, as remembered through the lens of a six year old boy, 38 years ago.
Long before hit documentary movies like ELF and The Santa Claus revealed how Santa flies through the skies around the world on Christmas Eve, I learned how Santa truly goes from house-to-house in a single night. He drives a yellow Skidoo. Or at least he did in 1982. I know this because I saw it with my very own eyes.
My family had just moved to the middle of nowhere in Northern Ontario, Elsas. I’ve written about this hamlet before, but here is a refresher. It’s a small hamlet sandwiched between the CN Rail line and Kapuskasing Lake; no roads connected us to the outside world; to get there you had to either fly by float plane or take the train from Foleyte.
The move to Elsas was work-related. My Dad worked for the railway. In the summer, the hamlet had a couple-hundred people with cottages and hunting camps. In the winter there were seven people, and my parents and I were counted in that tally.
We had moved to Elsas in September that year. Once a month we’d take the train to town, drive to Timmins for supplies, and then return.
As Christmas approached, I remember being very concerned that Santa was not going to know where we had moved to. This is a common worry I think when kids move so close to the holiday season.
I remember my Mom telling me not to worry about it and that Santa would know where we had moved. Try telling a six-year old to not worry about Santa missing their house. Good luck with that!
December 24th arrived. A foot of snow was on the ground, and it was getting dark outside. I didn’t know about NORAD’s Santa Tracker back then, and we were miles out of range of any news reports. Plus, it was 1982. There were no internet, email, or cell phone alerts. My parents had a party-line telephone (ring four-long). Talk about being disconnected from the world!
It was dark outside. My parents were trying to get me to finally go to bed and still I was worried that there wouldn’t be any presents under the tree from Santa. How does he know where I am? Was I good or was I bad that year? (Don’t answer that!) Will he miss my house? There were no other kids in town so why would he stop here? I worried that the only presents under the tree in the morning would be the ones I had found under my parents bed when I was looking a few weeks before.
Then I heard the roar of a snowmobile. This was not an uncommon sound up north or in our hamlet.
The snowmobile was on the front yard of our house. Again, not an uncommon occurrence when there’s a foot of snow on the ground.
I looked out our front window, who did I see sitting on the yellow Skidoo? The big guy himself: Santa Claus.
He was dressed in a black winter coat with a black Skidoo helmet and sunglasses on. His beard was as white as the stuffing from a new pillow. And over his shoulder was a big bag filled with toys. I was in shock and I remember my Dad going outside to greet the big man himself.
Gradually, or in about 20 seconds – I remember it being longer – the shock wore off and I remember hearing Santa yell from the yard that I had to get to bed right away. He would be passing by our house a little later and if I wasn’t asleep by then, he wouldn’t stop.
Away I went, and the following morning there were more toys under the tree than I probably deserved.
I still remember the Slot-Car racing set and the smell those cars would make when you ran them too fast for too long.
Our Christmas was different that year from any that I remember before because we were living far away from our families in Eastern Ontario. But the magic of the Christmas season meant that even though the holiday was different, different wasn’t bad.
This year again, our Christmas will be different with the circumstances of the past year still ongoing. That said, just because Christmas will be different, doesn’t mean the season isn’t special or the magic of the season is diminished.
To all those out there, Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays, stay safe, and thank you for reading.
And remember, Santa does drive a yellow Skidoo! I’ve seen it.
Originally published in the December 23rd, 2020 issue of The Leader.