Christmas had always been a bit odd at James Godfrey's house.
When he was 2 or 3 years old, he'd seen someone in a Santa suit
sprint out of the living room and into the living room. At the
age of 6, eagerly trying to uncover his Christmas gifts, he opened
a box that had some rather large black boots in them. The kind,
James figured, that would go well with a Santa suit. Then only one month
after James turned 8, his father was wearing a fake white beard
as he passed out presents by the fir tree they'd chopped down
for Christmas that year.
now that James was 9 years old, he began to put the clues together.
He knew they meant something, but he couldn't quite put his finger
on what. So he did what any good 13-year-old boy would do. He
grabbed a notepad, three sharpened pencils, two baseball caps,
a magnifying glass, and a plastic pipe that blew bubbles instead
of tobacco smoke.
Pulling one cap down tight, he put the
other on facing the opposite direction and took inventory of what
he knew so far. At the top of the page, he wrote, "What It All
Means" in a fast-and-furious 9-year-old scribble. Once he wrote
down all he knew about the strange things that surrounded Christmas,
he read and reread the list. It wasn't coming to him, so he sprinted
to the kitchen.
"Mom, I need some hot chocolate," James said abruptly.
She looked dotingly at her growing son and smiled.
"I'd love to help, but I'm just a bit busy," she said as she
wiped flour from her hands. "Maybe when I'm done with dinner?"
"It'll be too late," James insisted. "I'll get it myself."
James filled up a mug shaped like Santa Claus's face with water
and put it in the microwave. Minutes later, James was sipping
on a cup of lukewarm hot chocolate topped with marshmallows in
the initial stages of melting.
Wearing a chocolate moustache, James got back to work. Santa
suit.black boots.white beard.
"Sammy, it's me, James. Yeah. The one next door. Who else would it be? Can you come over?
Got something I need some help with. See you then."
When Sammy reached for the door, it opened before he could knock.
"Thought you'd never get here," James said.
"It took like 12 seconds!"
"Whatever," James replied. "Follow me."
Inside the confines of James's room lay the tools of the detective
trade. At the center, on his bed covered with a Star Wars blanket,
rested the list of clues James was trying to make sense of.
"So let me get this right," Sammy said. "You think there's some
great mystery you're trying to solve, but really it's just a bunch
of random events that have happened during Christmas time every
year?" Sammy looked skeptical. "Sounds like you're trying to make
something out of nothing."
James looked up angry.
"You gonna help me with this or just be a smarty pants?"
"Okay, okay. Let's figure it out."
For the next 45 minutes, the two hunkered down over their notes,
pouring their entire beings into their studies. When dinnertime
rolled around, the two broke for 15 minutes each, explaining to
their parents that something urgent had to be tended to and besides,
it was Christmas break, and all boys stay out late on Christmas
break-especially boys who are 9 years old.
Another 15 minutes of discussion, a minute or two of silence.
One more hour of debate, going over the facts,
scribbling down new thoughts and connections. And then
more silence. A minute passed and then another and another.
Sammy looked at his friend in disbelief, his eyes growing wide.
"James?" he repeated.
"Yeah, I heard you, Sammy. I'm just.thinking."
"James? Me, too. And I think."
James Godfrey, age 9 and counting, had a knowing look on his
face. The innocence of childhood was swept away in an instant.
In its place, the wisdom of the ages.
"It's my dad," James started. "It's him. He's.he's."
The name fell silently from Sammy's lips, as James mouthed the
words in unison. At only 9 years of age, James had unraveled one
of the greatest mysteries of all time. He'd been living with Santa
Claus his entire life, but he didn't call him Santa. He called
As the knowledge sunk in, James found he wasn't too surprised.
After all, his dad was already his hero, a man who brought a smile
to his face with his mere presence. Why couldn't he don a Santa
suit once a year and make every child in every corner of the world
just as happy with his presents?