Is there a Santa?

Little girl convinced she was touched by the jolly old elf

Editor’s note: This exchange occurred during a snow storm that closed Interstate 70 in Colorado a few years ago.

It was cold, bitterly cold. The wind was whipping the snow into a frenzy. Visibility, at times, was like … well, zero.

The highway was shut down. Motorists were stranded, either on the side of the road or crowded in a truck stop next to the highway.

By BRYAN GALLEGOS

Ginger Grant got off the road and was mulling around in the store with her older sister, Mariah. They were killing time, waiting, hoping the road would soon be reopened. Their parents were sitting in their battered Chevrolet van that was headed for East before the storm closed the road.

There was a lot of people in the store, and Mariah told 6-year-old Ginger, whose real name is Virginia, to stay close. Ginger, whose red hair was tied off in a pony tail, was hungry. Her stomach grumbled, and, she, too, grumbled.

“Riah, I’m hungry,” she said.

“I know. I am too,” the older sister said. “I have 85 cents, maybe we can buy something to eat.”

“Oh, boy,” Ginger said with a huge smile that seemed to warm up the room.

Together, they went down one aisle and then another. Finally, they found some crackers, the kind with peanut butter. She thought it cost 80 cents.

Ginger was excited. Mariah not so much, but she was hopeful that she had enough.

When she reached the cashier and gave her the money, Mariah’s heart sank when she heard the woman at the cash register say, “96 cents, please.”

They didn’t have enough. Ginger hid her eyes, not wanting anybody to see her tears. Mariah held her little sister, comforting her like older sisters should.

A man stepped forward, almost out of nowhere. He was a big man, with broad shoulders and a big midsection. His hair was pulled back into a pony tail just like Ginger’s. He was wearing a ball cap that said Reindeer Beer, the company for whom he drove a big rig. His semi, all lit up with different colored lights, was parked outside like all the others – waiting for an opening.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” he asked in a kind and gentle voice.

Normally, Ginger is frightened by strangers. She looked up, hesitated for a second, and said, quietly, almost in a whisper: “I’m hungry, sir.”

He reached for them, but Mariah stepped back. Ginger, though, reached for his hand. He looked at Mariah and smiled and then extended his hand out to her again. This time, slowly, she took it.

He led them to the deli portion of the store and told them to choose whatever they wanted to eat. He asked them about their parents, and Ginger said they were resting in the van.

“Can we call them so they can eat?” Ginger asked.

“Sure,” the man said. “Let’s go get them. Where are they?”

Led by the two girls, the man met their parents and invited them for a sub sandwich. Together, they ordered some food. There was something special about that meal and about that man.

As they were finishing up, a voice spoke over the loud speaker. “The state patrol has reopened the highway in both directions. Drive safely.”

That being said, the man stood up, said good bye to the girls and said, “I’ve gotta fly.”

Ginger looked at him walking away, and then some words just came out of her tiny mouth: “Are you Santa Claus.”

The man looked back, smiled and waved goodbye … and was gone.

“Riah, was that Santa Clause?”

Mariah smiled.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause.”


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