Santa Claus is on the phone

My brother and I grew up in New York City during the '40s and '50s. Our mother was a sales clerk in a large department store. Our father was a power maintainer for the city's subway system.

We lived on the ground floor of a five-story apartment building. Each floor had five apartments. There was no elevator. There was a public pay phone in the "lobby" area. When the phone rang, whoever was in the area answered the phone, rang the appropriate apartment buzzer and yelled up the stairwell for the needed person.

One December Santa called on that phone. He asked to speak to the kids who lived in the building.

He knew each of our names as well as our assets and shortcomings.

As each child had his or her turn, eyes got big, voices filled with awe with "Yes, Santa," "No, Santa," and "I promise, Santa." We could even hear the icy polar wind blowing in the background. It was thrilling.

All too soon, Santa said he had to hang up because this was his busy season and he had other calls to make.

A few years later, after I wondered aloud if Santa would ever call again, my father, Walter Lachack, confessed to being Santa. The wind we heard blowing was the sound of the huge machines at the power station where he worked.

Was I disappointed? I don't remember now, but I do know that I looked at him forever after with more loving eyes. This Christmas memory surfaces every year at this time. I miss him terribly.


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