It was Christmastime 1969, when my best friend and I got off the bus, arguing over whether Santa Claus was real or not. He said ‘no’ and I said ‘yes.’
My conviction was so strong that I eventually picked a fight with him and we both ended up in the principal’s office. I explained that I had jus’ seen a program on TV that took viewers on a tour of Santa’s Reindeer Ranch.
In the end we were both had to spend all of our recesses that day standing against the supply shed, watching everyone else play. Eventually, he moved away, his father having been reassigned to another air base and I soon forgot his name.
Not being able to remember his name always bugged me.
It was later summer, nearly 46-years later when Kay Vail, a friend from high school contacted me, saying she and her husband were in town and wanted to get together. I jumped at the chance.
It was during dinner that Kay’s husband, Steve started reminiscing about how he had attended Margaret Keating School his third grade year. He also talked about playing with the kid’s who live on both sides of Camp Marigold and how he was best friends with one boy right across the fence from him.
Then he shared how he and his best buddy got into a fight and ended up in the principal’s office: “I can’t remember what the fight was about. And worse yet, I can’t recall the kid’s name that I was friends with.”
I nearly choked on my prime rib.
“Your dad was in the Air Force and you were waiting for a place to open up in base housing,” I interrupted. “And if you heard you dad call for you – you had to drop what ever it was you were doing and get home and your dad had a one of a kind holler, kind of like a bullhorn.”
“Yeah,” he responded as a semi puzzled look crossed his face.
“And that fight – it was over whether Santa Clause was real or not,” I added.
He knew it before I could finish my sentence, “It was me who started that fight and got you in trouble.”
All I could do was choke back the tears I felt welling up and offer him my hand, saying, “I’m sorry.”
“No big deal,” Steve chuckled as he gripped my hand, “We were jus’ kids.”