Tom Blount: With Santa, hope springs eternal

Dec. 16, 2012 @ 01:21 AM

It’s funny, sometimes, what triggers a trek through the memory bank.
I heard Vicki and David Miller talk about their Christmas tree, decorations, water and all, falling over. David said he drove a 4-inch screw into the wall and tied the tree to it once it was upright again. Their story reminded me of one my mom and dad told my sister and me years after a similar incident.
In those days (1939), my dad, told us kids (then 9 and 4, respectively) that, in addition to leaving presents, Santa put up and decorated our Christmas tree during his overnight visit. Of course, after we went to bed, Pap and my Mom on Christmas Eve would set up and trim the tree. They put all of the family’s presents around the intricate train display Pap feverishly had arranged through the early-Christmas-morning hours. That year, as they had finished everything and headed up the stairs, they heard a who-oo-osh! The tree had fallen, breaking many of the decorations. They had to tiptoe back and forth through my bedroom (to get to the attic stairs), find some “leftover” decorations, set the tree up again and redecorate it before Nancy and I awoke Christmas morning. We were clueless for a decade as to what our parents went through to make that Christmas perfect.
After hearing the Millers’ story, Betty Lou and I talked about Christmases past and when we no longer believed the Santa Claus stories. I confessed that I found out the truth, at age 7 – from a cousin – but managed to fool my parents for at least three more years that I believed. I remember testing them one Saturday night before Christmas (1944) after we had walked past the long line of kids waiting to see Santa in Burke’s Auto Store, and another at Montgomery Ward before visiting the Santa at the G.C. Murphy Five and Dime. The three were dressed differently, one was really fat while the other two were pleasingly plump, so my parents couldn’t tell me that Santa was rushing ahead to be at Murphy’s at the same time I got in line there. “The others were Santa’s helpers,” Mom explained. I figured if that was their story and they were sticking to it, I would too. Remember, I got more presents that way.
A couple of decades later, there was a nationwide debate as to whether adults telling children the Santa story is a harmful exercise. Much has been said and written about that debate since. A theory that I took away contends the Santa story “trains” a child to hope, and, as Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.”
Wikipedia defines hope as “the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. … Hope is the “feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best” …
As Alexander Pope wrote in 1733, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast …” Hope springs eternal in my breast that those responsible for the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision post-season will come to their senses. Remember last year, with scandals at Penn State, Ohio State among others causing many pundits to claim that college football had grown too big to fail? Well, Bowlmania (37 games) is a system now in place that allows 62 percent of the 120 teams in FBS, even those with 6-6 records, to play post-season games. It’s a major contributor to what’s wrong with big-time college football. I hope Santa brings some common senses and major reform to the NCAA, discarding Bowlmania.

Tom Blount retired as editor of the Enterprise in the spring.