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A Midnight Conversation

Yes, Virginia, he still exists...


by Puddleglum
December 23, 2002

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A Midnight Conversation_Puddleglum-Yes, Virginia, he still exists... As a software programmer by trade, I often find myself working some rather strange hours. You work when the solution hits you and it has sometimes hit during those hours, which anyone in his or her right mind would be safely nestled in a warm bed, fast asleep. It is of a night like that from which this story comes.

It was coming up on the new millennium and I was up finishing some documentation on my current bug-chasing assignment when what upon my distraught lawn should appear, but a man in a sleigh and ¼ - scale reindeer. Into the living room he entered with a flash, dropped a bag on the couch and opened his stash. I opened a drawer and grabbed my .454 Casull, for you see, in my house, I alone rule. “Invaded my home have you” I said with an alien accent. He whipped around quickly, armed only with peppermint. Seeing a belly like John Candy’s and a smile that was wry, I knew in a moment I was suffering the delusions of too much Jolt cola and pie.

“I’m just here to give the gifts,” he said with his hands in the air. I put down the handgun, but continued to stare. He opened his sack and before you could say one, two, three, had laid out packages for my friends, my roommate and me. Then he packed up like a man who was late and was about to depart when I cried out:

“Wait!”

“What is it? And drop the rhyming if you don’t mind, it hurts my sense of aesthetics.”

“Well, I have questions. Here, have a seat in the recliner for a moment.” He plopped down with a creaking that I knew in a moment would require replacing. I took a seat next to him on the couch and tried to figure out where to begin.

“First of all, who are you really?” I said, figuring I would start by reassuring myself that putting down the gun was the right thing to do.

“Ah, well, in asking that you’ve pretty much asked all of your other questions, as well, such as how the reindeer fly, do I keep everyone gifts in the bag or do I have to keep making return trips, how I deliver to everyone in a single night, and I get into places that don’t have chimneys. You see, I am Saint Nickolaus and, yes, I really do exist.”

“No, the reindeer don’t fly, that was an assumption made by some author when the first thing that he knew was that something had landed on the roof. As I had intended to land on the lawn and appeared on the roof due to a miscalculation, I think that we can write up that episode as a cock-up all the way around. I generally enter by creating miniature time-space portals that I can walk through. Christmas trees, real or otherwise and regardless of size, have proven the most efficient and reliable medium through which to create the portals, but if a Christmas tree doesn’t exist, I try to find another object that I can see in the house to use as my focus. I also use the manipulation of much larger portals to travel so that I can get to every point necessary in one night. No, I don’t have to make return trips because each gift appears when it is needed, tailored to the needs, though not always the desires, of the recipient. Anything else?”

“Yes. Why coal?”

“Ah, yes, well that’s actually your culture’s fault, really. I don’t give coal anymore except to those who still use it. These days I give underwear and socks mostly, sometimes signing it ‘Merry Christmas –Aunt Marion’ as a joke. What your culture lost sight of was the nature of the gift. The whole purpose was not that you would get coal, but that, if you weren’t good, you would only get the most practical gifts and not the best ones that I had for you.”

“So what are you really?” I dared to ask and saw a smile on his face that shown like the sun.

“You know, far too few bother to ask that anymore. I am, put in the simplest terms possible, a child’s understanding of God. You see, I was created as a way for you all to remember the true reason that Christmas time exists, in fact the very reason it is named so. I am an analogy to show children, and adults when needed, that God is not some tyrant ruling from afar, but one who is acting all around you but rarely seen. When you misbehave, I am forced to give you practical gifts not because I wish to punish you but because you are no longer in a position to handle and to appreciate the things that I really want to give you. In the end, I exist because God exists. Should He cease to be remembered, I shall cease to have meaning and become only an empty shell to be used as a marketing tool to promote greater materialism. Some say that I already have.”

At this, he stood up, smiled, patted me gently on the head as a father would his child, and disappeared. Perhaps he was never there and I never spoke with him and I only dreamed the entire thing, but he still exists. Thank God he still exists.

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JWilson from Chicago writes:
December 24, 2002
I really appreciated Puddleglum's letter regarding Santa Claus. I also believe that St. Nickolaus is alive, I also believe in angels, and I also believe in a child's understanding of God. Thank you, Puddleglum, for articulating it this way.

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