Santa Claus is real. I know. I saw him. I'm not taking about the store bought lap or the rented ho, ho, ho. This was the genuine object. He came to my house. To prove it, we have pictures. They were black and white, so you can't see the true colors of his suit, but it was red with white trim just like the pictures of the fake S.C. you see in catalogues. He had a bag of toys and goodies to eat. He gave me a candy cane. He would have given one to my older brother, but he didn't wake up.
It was early 1950's. My family lived in Okinawa, the island in the East China Sea that was the last battle of World War II. It was semi-tropical, so there was no snow in December, but Santa still came.
We lived in military housing, which was essentially a flat cement slab on top of cinder blocks to facilitate construction and to ensure protection against typhoons. There were no chimneys. My guess is that Mr. Claus just came through the front door. I remember it was unlocked because I looked out to see if I could find his model 47 Bell helicopter that brought him to our house. This was the famous early military chopper one always sees on the opening of the TV show "M*A*S*H." It has a large glass bubble with an open grid tail. Staring out into the dark I thought I saw the faint outline of one on our front lawn, but I wasn't sure. Without snow it would be silly to have a sleigh and reindeer, so it made much more sense for Santa to have a more modern means of transportation.
There were no presents under the tree. He said he could only do that after I went back to sleep. Sure enough he was a man of his word. When I got up in the morning and my brother finally awoke, there were all the presents just as he had promised. My parents denied knowing any alternative explanation for our midnight visitor. I knew they were totally incapable of any deception. This confirmed Santa's existence.
With my mature mind, I know there are the heavy guys in fake-fur-lined red coats. There are the light guys, with yak hair dyed beards and body stuffing to make them look like the "plum jolly old elf" like the poem says. I am not naive enough to not know there are conventions and handbooks on pretending to be a Santa, so the person could be hired by a mall. There is or was a Santa University where a person could learn about the deeper secrets of Papa Noel. The course on ho, ho, ho-ing was well attended. The major debate was about using three "hos" or just two. There are news articles of counterfeit Santas going on strike. None of this changes his veracity. They are mere distractions to the bona fide. I have other supporting evidence to prove it.
Why else would parents go to the bother of buying and putting up a tree every year? How come dads travel all around town looking for the one toy his son wants so desperately? Why do families sacrifice, put gifts on lay-away, so they can afford them? Why are there Subs for Santas if he didn't exist? Why go to all this hassle if there weren't a Santa? We all remember finding surprises in our parent's closest or under their beds before the big day, but they were just acting as Santa's agents. Individuals and whole communities are Santas when they share. That proves that Santa Claus is the bona fide, through and through, 100% sure thing, living and breathing, money back guaranty, giver of physical gifts at Christmas time. That is why I believe he is real. Besides, I saw him.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing pediatrician for more than 25 years and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.