You will never convince me that it didn't really happen. About 10 p.m. on Dec. 24, 1961, my brothers and sisters and I were convinced that we heard reindeer landing on the roof of our family home. I remember it quite vividly. There was snow everywhere and there were reindeer "hoof prints" on the ledge outside the third floor bedroom where we had all secretly gathered to await the arrival of Christmas.
At 7 years of age, I thought I could stay up all night and catch Santa coming down the chimney. But you know as well as I do that we tuckered out long before the big bearded one made his appearance. Yet, looking back on that particular night, I believed I heard Santa land on the roof.
Eventually I learned that my older siblings had helped Santa's cause on the roof by urging us to get to sleep or Santa would not visit our abode. They probably had something to do with the signs of reindeer on the roof ledge as well.
It's at this time of the year that people are looking for signs, for a deeper meaning to the Christmas season. Children strain to catch a glimpse of Santa in the holiday parades and prepare handwritten lists to be mailed to the North Pole. They reach out to touch the Christ Child sleeping in the church manger scene and sing their very own versions of "Silent Night," complete with "round, young Persians" among the lyrics.
Adults race from store to store, sometimes with no idea what they are looking for, but still in search of the perfect gift. The headlights of vehicles snaking their way through Oglebay's lights festival affirms that Dec. 25 is closing in.
This year, while I most likely will fail to hear the familiar hoof sounds of long ago, I have seen and heard clues that Christmas is quite near.
I heard it in the voices of two callers this week who wanted to know how they could help others for the holidays. One group included a number of employees at a local bank while another was a woman who simply wanted to help supply toys for needy kids. It was with great joy that I could direct their efforts to some well-established programs that reach out to those who need it most in our local communities.
I saw the face of Christmas reflected in the shiny pots and pans at the local soup kitchens as volunteers served up hot meals to some of their fellow man. It was obvious, too, on the faces of the young students at Wheeling Middle School and Ritchie Elementary as they received gifts from the Ohio County Rotary Club. And the high school kids from Central beamed with pride as they delivered the canned foods they collected for the 18th Street Center.
Each and every one of these people have already found Christmas and obviously live it each and every day. They are the lucky ones. They don't need hoof prints in the snow to convince them that Christmas is here. They feel it every time they give of themselves to better someone else's life. Now that's the perfect gift.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.