I was four when I saw Santa's sleigh in the sky. We were living in Taiwan at the time on an Air Force Base where my dad was stationed. It's been more than forty Christmases since then but I remember it, which I find odd because I was so young at the time.
(I think childhood does that. We memorize the experiences that leave us in awe, grief, or joy. Details may grow fuzzy with time, but we don't forget how we felt in those moments. Seeing Santa and his reindeer in the sky was one of those memories for me.)
We were out doing things that families do. I was an only child, so I got everything I asked for. Sad but true. I remember being on a sidewalk lined with shops and seeing a red tricycle. I asked my parents if I could have it. In true parental fashion, they said no but that they would have to see, and since Santa was coming to bring me presents, maybe it would be something he'd bring me.
It was either my mom or my dad who then took my hand and walked away with me while the other parent disappeared. And then after what felt like forever to my four-year-old self, they traded places.
I didn't understand their alternating disappearance and reappearance but we finally went home. My dad got behind the wheel and as we drove off, he looked up at the sky and pointed to something in the distance and said, "Look! I think that's Santa Claus! That looks like his sleigh and reindeer! Can you see it?"
I strained my neck to look through the rearview window. I squealed and begged my dad to drive faster so we could catch up to Santa. I saw a flying object and a trail of fumes. It was definitely him!
We got home, and I remember being in shock that I saw Santa's sleigh and his reindeer and the trail of fumes they left in their path. Was he delivering presents?? Where was he off to?? Did he know what I wanted for Christmas??
We walked into our living room and there it was—the red tricycle I was just admiring that day! I was in shock. Not only did I see Santa and his sleigh and reindeer, I saw him as he had just finished delivering presents to our neighborhood. Maybe he had just dropped off my gift! Wow.
Santa topped himself the following year and the year after that. He always ate the cookies I left him and his reindeer always ate the carrots I left them. I'd try to stay up late to catch him so I could thank him. Other Christmases, I'd try waking up early to see if he'd be there.
I never did see Santa again except at the mall. I sat on his lap once Christmas and asked him if he remembered bringing me my red tricycle one Christmas and he did. He had such a good memory.
I didn't see him in his sleigh in the sky again but having seen him that one time is something I've never forgotten more so now that both my parents are gone.
My dad died when I was eight and my mom passed when I was twenty-seven. Christmas has never been quite the same but at least I have these memories. Maybe someday I'll sit on his lap again at the mall and ask him if he remembers the little girl he gave a red tricycle to. I'm sure he does.