In Our Own Backyard…Santa is missing!Without giving away any age-old secrets from the North Pole, and without violating any codes of silence that have existed from the beginning of time, suffice it to say just this: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!”
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon once wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun newspaper, asking if there is, indeed, a Santa Claus. The response to her letter was printed as an unsigned editorial on Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman and former war correspondent Francis Pharcellus Church, the editorial has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial – and the envy of most every working journalist from that day forward.
And while that eloquent piece of prose spoke stirringly about the eternal essence of Santa Claus, there are times when the rest of us have reason to question his existence altogether.
Last week, I found myself doing that very thing.
With our office’s annual Christmas Open House only a couple of weeks away, we discovered that Santa Claus was nowhere to be found. It seems that our old friend Santa, who has regaled legions of youngsters at our annual open house with his “Ho, ho, ho!” each year, was MIA (missing in action). There was a rumor being bantered around about a previous engagement at a Duluth-Superior department store, but no one could be certain just exactly where Santa was.
I tried vigilantly to reach him, but as everyone knows, the only ones who truly have a hotline to Santa are children. Nonetheless, I made it my personal mission to “find” Santa before the week was out.
First I called Carlton County Commissioner Dick Brenner. Since Dick has a white beard and an infectious laugh, I figured he might in some way be related to Santa and could tell me where to find him. Since there was no answer at the Brenner household, I left a message.
But when Dick did not show up at last week’s county board meeting, I decided to approach fellow board member Bob Olean. Bob also has a white beard and, as a retired school bus driver, is a favorite with children everywhere. But when I asked him about Santa, he reluctantly admitted he was going to be traveling out of town and would not be of much help in finding Santa, either.
Right about that time, we were getting ready to print a large ad in our newspaper about the upcoming open house and Santa visit, and one of our staff members wondered if we should pull the ad since we hadn’t been able to find Santa yet.
“Run it!” I declared with steely determination, promising I would find Santa before the end of the week if it was the last thing I did.
The next day I talked with Mary Marciniak, wife of Cloquet’s Tom Marciniak, who is known to have had a direct “in” with Santa for years. Mary agreed to ask Tom if he could talk with Santa and persuade him to be here for our office open house. But alas, the only assistance he could offer was a suggestion that I talk with Cloquet insurance agent Steve Micke, who is known for his sense of humor and acts of kindness – a true Santa kind of guy – to see if he knew where Santa was.
After a day or so of sweating it out, I heard back from Steve, confessing that Santa was still nowhere to be found….
At that point, I recalled someone had mentioned that Cloquet funeral director Rob Nelson actually owned his own Santa suit, so one of my co-workers contacted him to see if he had any influence with Santa. But alas, word came back that Santa was not there, either.
I racked my brain for what seemed like hours before I thought about retired postmaster Jim Nynas, who is kind and funny and well-liked by pretty much everyone – just like Santa. When he picked up the phone and I asked him about Santa, he seemed a bit surprised – though flattered – but he advised me to check with his cousin Rick, who is rumored to be a close, personal friend of Santa’s.
When Rick answered the phone, I introduced myself. By then I was almost reluctant to pose my opening question since I had run into so many dead ends before.
“Um, I’m looking for Santa,” I said, trying to disguise the nervous tremor in my voice. “Do you think you could help me out?”
There was a long pause on the other end of the line before he replied slowly, “Well, when do you need him?”
And it was if the sun had suddenly broken through the clouds on a snowy day.
“Thursday, Dec. 6, from 4-6 p.m.,” I cried breathlessly. “There’ll be lots of little kids, photos of every visit and all the cookies Santa can eat! Do you think he’ll be there?”
It seemed as though the universe completed an entire turn on its axis – as though my life flashed in front of me – during that singular moment in time before the response came back over the phone line. I thought of the little girl, Virginia, desperately paging through the Sun newspaper more than a century ago to find out if she’d gotten an answer about the existence of Santa Claus.
And without giving away any age-old secrets from the North Pole, and without violating any codes of silence that have existed from the beginning of time, suffice it to say just this: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!”