When I was a itty, bitty Scottish lass one thing I looked forward to all year was meeting Santa Claus and Santa = Books or, more correctly, Santa = Book. I'm not talking here about meeting Santa at a department store, though I did do that at least one time which I can remember.
Funnily enough I remember nothing about meeting Santa that department store time; what I do clearly remember was the bizarre elements of this experience. The Santa display was located on the 5th floor of the department store, at least that is my version and I'm sticking to it. The only way to reach it was to climb the concrete back stairs and to wait in a big long line which snaked it's way up said stairs. I'd been in that store many times before with my mom, but we'd never climbed up that dismal stairway. It made no sense to me that we couldn't just climb the perfectly nice, carpeted stair like usual. I'm also sure I remember money changing hands party-way through the waiting process. "Why do we have to pay to see Santa Claus?", I'm sure I asked. After all, doesn't Santa give away toys for free? Anyway, I digress, because that is not the Santa who gave me books, that is not the real Santa Claus.
In case you wondered, Stories of Santa is an Usborne book, which does NOT contain my story dictated here... back to the story.
The real Santa Claus arrived on his sleigh, complete with jingling reindeer, only at the West Parish Church Primary Sunday School Christmas Party and only if we sang Jingle Bells lustily enough. Well, hopefully the real Santa Claus also brought my presents on Christmas night, but that time I did not get to see or hear him. Again I digress. The excitement of hearing Santa's sleigh arrive was almost too much. Understandably there were always a host of volunteers stationed at the hall doors to make sure no determined children escaped to the outside to see Santa's sleigh, otherwise the magic would surely disappear.
A few minutes after the adrenaline hyped children heard Santa's reindeer bells, he would appear with his very large sack over his shoulder, a sack which contained one present for each child in sunday school. It was really, really hard to sit still until your name was called. Somehow I could believe in Santa, but I could not believe that my name wouldn't be the one name which Santa failed to read aloud. It was a long, tiring process, made magical by the knowledge that Santa really had come and really had brought a gift for everyone. I only remember one gift that Santa ever gave me, or anyone, at the Sunday school Christmas party. It was a book. It was Leander the Gander. It was a book I hated and loved at the same time. It's the book of which the inside cover is shown here over on the left. It's a book about a gander who swaps necks with a cat and then with a pig. It makes absolutely no sense to me now, and it made no sense to me then. While I hated the story, it was one of a very small number of books I had as a child and maybe even the first one that was mine alone. That's why Santa = Books and why I brought this book across the Atlantic with me and still have it on my shelf. Or is that because I'm a bibliophile?
Actually I remember being pretty disappointed that Santa had brought me a book and not a toy. Now if only he'd brought me a big stack of great children's books, like the complete collection of Dr Seuss or something, I'd have been a happy little bibliophile. Was that too much to ask? You decide.
What did Santa give you? Did he give you a book? Do you still have it? This post is part of the 2008 Blog Advent Tour. Today's other participant is Lisa at Books, Lists, Life.
Surprisingly you can see Leander the Gander in all his clean-jacket fineness for sale over at Crickhollow Books. Imagine that - maybe Santa shopped there!
The Amazon.com 4-for-3 book sale is still going on - children's books in the Amazon.com 4-for-3 sale.