Later the kids sat transfixed while he read the story of "The Polar Express," complete with train whistle and jingle bell sounds. I even felt a bit like a kid again and shared their joy, wonder and excitement of meeting the big man himself.
When I was a kid, there was only one store in town that had a Santa — Killian's Department Store. For some reason, our parents never took us to see him. Maybe they thought that he wouldn't live up to our imaginations, but in any case they encouraged us to write a wish list every year. That probably made mom's shopping a little easier.
My sister and I would go through the JC Penney and Sears Roebuck catalogs and note every toy, including page number, and mail the letter off right after Thanksgiving. On Christmas morning, there would always be at least a couple of the toys from our list under the tree. Unwrapped, of course, because Santa doesn't have time to wrap the thousands of toys that he delivers.
Besides waiting for Santa, I waited all year long to watch my favorite Christmas television shows. The "Charlie Brown Christmas" special is the first animated show that I can remember, but so many came later and I would watch every one. Even as a typically cynical teenager, I would still check the TV Guide and make a list of the shows, so that I wouldn't miss any.
One of my favorite shows, "Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas," isn't shown any more. It was produced by Jim Henson in the late 1970s and told a sweet Gift of the Magi-type story of an otter mother and her son.
My kids love the Christmas shows nearly as much as I do and, so far this year, we've watched dozens of them. With most of the classics now released on DVD, I get to share those with the kids too.
Then there's "White Christmas," which I watch over and over. My favorite part is the last scene where Bing Crosby and the cast sing the title song in front of a gorgeous Christmas tree, with the women in stunning Edith Head gowns, and snow softly falling outside. It's picture perfect and it simply wouldn't be Christmas without it.
SHARON RAGHAVACHARY is on the steering committee for Crescenta Valley Community Assn. and a member of the Family Advisory Council for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. She may be reached at email@example.com.