‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring - mouse, spouse or louse.
The stockings were flung o’er the rail of the stair, in the annual hope St. Nick would get there.
The children were snug in their down-quilted splendor, and their parents were done with every last vendor.
But the light-sleeping dad was roused from his napping by the sound of small hoofs that were on the roof tapping.
He slipped out of bed thinking this must be the year when he’d actually see those tiny reindeer.
He crept down the stairs and slid into a chair, knowing his kids would say stealth was unfair.
But he wanted to see what jolly Santa would do when he saw what was happening with this loving crew.
The cookies were fresh and the carrots had crunch, but that wasn’t all in this night’s special punch.
A note had been written a half a page long, ‘cuz his kids said Santa’d help them right what was wrong.
Then he heard a loud "Ooof" and down came some soot, and the child part of his heart leapt when he saw Santa’s foot.
As the big elf emerged and brushed himself off, the dad nearly choked while he stifled a cough.
"What’s this?" Santa said, as he read the kids’ letter. "Aha and ho, ho. I could not have said it much better.
That was too much for a parent, who was now feeling giddy and unwilling to hide like some spying biddy.
So he sprang from his chair as if stung by a bee, and shouted "Hi, Santa," with a great deal of glee.
But Santa was somber, had a tear in his eye, still so taken aback that he could not reply.
Then he gathered himself, gave a pat to his belly, bit into a cookie and said, "You a relly?"
"I’m the d-dad," the dad said, surprised by his stammer, and I hope you don’t mind if I witness this drama."
With the briefest of nods, Santa filled all the stockings, adding some extras for such good girls and boys.
Then he turned to the stuff the kids had left in a stack and stuffed the first gunright into his sack.
Some were for caps on the Fourth of July, some would shoot marshmallows up toward the sky,
The biggest took B-B’s, and those were there, too, plus a gun to shoot water, and one nearly new.
Video games went in next, their killer covers quite gory, and the dad knew that Santa was approving this story.
"They don’t want them," the dad said, "not for their play, and they seemed very sure you’d just take them away."
"I have sacks jammed with guns up in the sleigh, making this round a very strange day.
"I’ll have more going home than I did coming out, and I’m touched to the heart with what this is about."
"If the burden’s too great, I’ll fix it with them," the dad started to say. Santa broke in with "Ahem."
"The elves love a challenge in the first of the year, so they’ll melt, pound and stir all this negative gear
"And twelve months from now, when I reappear, what they’ve made out of these will be nothing to fear."
And laying his finger aside of his nose, he signaled high five - and up the chimney he rose.
The dad knelt by the fireplace, straining to hear, as Santa spoke sharply to Dasher, then Cupid and Dancer,
"Now onward and upward,’ he shouted to Prancer, and faintly so faintly as they flew into the night,
"Merry Christmas to all and to all a life bright."
Ruth Bass waits for Santa in Richmond. Her website is www.ruthbass.com