It's The Big Day. And as such, I won't make you wait any longer to open my gift to you.
Here it is, your eagerly awaited parody song for the Ninth Annual Standard-Examiner Life at the Top o' Utah Holiday Gift o' Music Gala Giveaway and Karaoke Extravaganza:
"Oh, you'd better watch out/ You'd better not cry/ You'd better not pout/ I'm telling you why/ Santa Claus is nothing more than an imaginary mythical figure with roots in the historic and folkloric traditions of any number of Western cultures ..."
Ha! Just try singing THAT one around the ol' holiday spinet.
Now, for the benefit of any of you young tykes out there who might be reading this -- and if you are, somebody really ought to call the Division of Child and Family Services on your parents -- let me just say that your old Uncle Mark does indeed believe in the existence of Santa Claus.
But that wasn't always the case. A little holiday story, if I may ...
Once upon a time, back in the 1960s, in a Southern California suburb, there lived a young boy who was beginning to question the existence of Santa Claus. Already, the word on the monkey bars at school was that Santa wasn't really real. And then came that fateful Christmas Eve in 1968.
That night, the boy and his sisters had been sent to bed, like every other Night Before Christmas, with two explicit instructions: to stay in their rooms, and to go to sleep. If a parent was needed -- and a parent had better not be needed, it was stressed -- the child should call out and someone would eventually respond. But the message was clear. Stay ... in ... your ... room!
The boy was far too excited for ordinary things like sleep. But he also knew that there was an entire bookcase of sleep-inducing reading material out in the living room. Timidly, he called out. "Mother? Father?" Nothing. A little louder. "Mom! Dad!" Still nothing. What, had their parents abandoned them? On Christmas Eve? How Dickensian!
Finally, the boy crept out to the living room to retrieve a book. Although the tree was lit and the stereo was softly playing Christmas music, there were no parents to be found. Odd, but fortuitous.
The boy was kneeling in front of the bookcase, trying to decide between "Curious George" and "The Cat in the Hat," when the front door burst open. Backing across the threshold into the room was the boy's father, holding two corners of a bedsheet. Just beyond him, holding the other corners of the sheet, was the boy's mother. And between them, piled atop that makeshift litter, was the biggest mound of presents he had ever seen.
He let out a tiny gasp, and his father wheeled around, barely hanging onto his end of the sheet in the process.
"What are you doing up?" the father demanded.
"I-I-I couldn't sleep and just wanted a book," the boy stammered, holding up "Curious George" as proof. He couldn't take his eyes off that bedsheet.
"Get back to bed. NOW!" his father ordered. The boy dropped the books and ran for his room.
A day or two later, the father would pull the boy aside for a little post-holiday spin doctoring.
"Santa was in a hurry," the man explained patiently. "He asked if it would be OK if he and the reindeer just dropped off our presents in the front yard, and if your mother and I would be willing to bring them into the house and place them under the tree for him."
The boy nodded. But in the end, he decided -- like virtually everyone else who had reached the advanced age of 9 years old -- that he no longer believed in Santa Claus.
Oh, Christmas still arrived every Dec. 25th. And the presents kept coming, just the same. But everything had changed.
The years went by and the boy grew to be a man. Eventually, he had children of his own. And then he had grandchildren. And then, ever-so-gradually, something strange began happening. He found himself believing again. And he ... I ... finally got to thinking that maybe Santa Claus really does exist.
Rooted in reality? Not even. Do I care? Even less.
And that's the beauty. Belief in anything is a decision, a choice. Nobody gets to tell you what you do or don't believe. Therefore, at least for me, I believe that Santa does exist.
Call me stupid. Call me crazy. But mostly, call me when you find something better. Because my belief includes magic reindeer who can fly. My belief includes a kind, wonderful elf who travels all around the world in one night, giving gifts to everyone. And my belief tells me that during the holidays -- at any moment, really -- wondrous miracles can and will occur. Beat that.
Of course, sometimes miracles need a little helping hand. So we go and get a bedsheet, and we each grab a corner, and we help Santa carry Christmas for a while. But that doesn't make him any less real. If anything, it makes him even more real.
So, yes, Virginia. And West Virginia, and Iowa, and Texas and California and Utah and everywhere else children hang around monkey bars doubting his existence. I'm here to tell you:
I believe in Santa Claus.
Contact Mark Saal at 801- 625-4272 or email@example.com.