When did you first see him?

When did you first see him?

It was, I’m pretty sure, 1980 for me.

When I was a kid, Christmas morning was always celebrated in our living room. In my parents’ house the staircase that leads down to the first floor is next to a wall that separates us from our Christmas bounty. The third step was key – no descent past the third step.

That tradition has continued with my family. We have a similar setup, and the third step is my kids’ starting line of awesomeness. When you’re on the third step, you wait in anticipation (Santicipation!) while Mom and Dad make a fire, get the coffee going, whip up some hot chocolate. And you know – YOU JUST KNOW!!! – that something fantastic awaits you on the other side of that wall. He made it to our house. You know he did!

But before Christmas morning arrived and you sat perched on your literal or figurative third step, many of you no doubt set out to see for yourself the Big Man at work.

I have three older sisters, so I have to say that it was pretty amazing that, by the time I was 8, no one had suggested to me that you could not see him at work. I decided I would stay up extra late, even pretending to be asleep if my parents came up to check on me. I made one try to come downstairs and check and see if he was there, but my mother, for some strange reason, was in the living room. (I assumed she, too, was wanting to see him.) She put me back to bed, and I started drifting off. I’d get up in a few, I assured myself.

The next morning, as I sat on the third step, I was absolutely certain I had, in fact, woken up earlier in the evening and seen him. He had been there. I knew it. When my parents let us crash the threshold, and I saw a Millennium Falcon and a Han Solo action figure and who knows what else, it confirmed everything I had thought. I KNEW that was him!

I was talking the other day with some folks who also knew of those who had seen him. Some were certain they had. Others knew people who had. But, rest assured, Santa has been seen doing his work by plenty of folks. Why so many doubters?

My kids are 10 and 13 now. I do not know if they have seen him. I think that’s something you probably keep to yourself, as it’s the most magical secret you can know, and spilling the beans to your old folks might jeopardize that.

But I know this much – I have seen him since 1980. I’ve seen him quite a few times over the past decade. And he does just like you think he does – he shows up in a flash. He fills stockings. He does some last minute toy construction. One time, he even had his elves assemble a trampoline in the backyard at our house. And here’s something I never knew when I snuck down and most certainly saw him in 1980 – Mrs. Claus is always there, and actually does WAY more than he does.

I know my daughter will not come down looking for him this year. She’s 13. And that’s OK. If my son comes looking for him – he’s 10 – this will most likely be the last year for a while.

All of us hit that window where we stop looking for him. But that window opens up again down the road.

I feel confident he’ll be at our house this year. And I have a feeling my son will be in his bed, one last time, plotting his time when he can sneak down and catch him in action. And I hope he sees him.
Because I’ve seen him. Time and time again …

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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