Back when we'uns were nuthin' but a litter, my li'l brother suffered a serious life setback.
A neighbor boy wif' the temper of a he-coon done dealt baby brother a double blow: Thar' ain't no Stork, an' thar' ain't no Santa.
Which, come to think, is 'bout the same thang.
Natcherly this conversation occurred a few weeks a'fore Christmas. An' jes' as natcherly it put Granny in a spin to find some means of keepin' a little twinkly magic in baby brother's Christmas.
Brother chile' wuz unfazed by the first revelation, declarin' wif' eight-year ole authority, "Eeewww! GROSS! Gross, gross gross! Mah Daddy would never do a thang like that!"
But the second revelation carried a penalty: Iffin' a fella persisted in believin' in Santa Clause, he' got hisself labeled a sissy, a baby. It made thangs difficult in the sandlot.
So... kid Brother manfully maintained that "Santa is for babies. I doan believe it no more." An we'uns noticed how the happy spark of childhood seemed dim after this revelation took aholt of him.
Granny Cracker believed. She believed in Christmas as a time for miracles, some known only to the heart. Her own grief over li'l brother's dilemma like to have ruint her own Christmas spirit. Pappy Cracker, on t'other hand, thought he had a remedy.
In them days we lived in a big ole house near downtown Hog Town Creek. This house were built in the 1800s so it had high ceilings and spacious rooms. Ever year Granny insisted on a tree that touched the ceiling, but the onliest room that could take such a large tree wuz the foyer, cause it had the least stuff to move out to make room for these massive fir trees. That year the tree wuz the finest one yet. Its lights threw dancin' sparkles over the presents beneath it boughs.
Despite an unbeliever in our midst, the rest of us young'uns wuz mighty excited. Visions of sugarplums abounded. Christmas Eve arrived in a flurry of last minute baking, secret elf errands, and visits with friends who stopped in for a cup o' cheer. Mistletoe hung from the chandelier, the halls were decked, the fragrance of cinnamon and pine wafted through the rooms, an we chillen's were jumpin' wif' excitement: Santa Claus is a' comin' tonight!
Li'l brother wanted to believe. But the he-coon neighbor boy done put him on point, "Yore Daddy an' Mama is foolin' ya. They act like they believe so's youse tricked into thinkin' a fat man is comin' down yore chimney wif' a sack of toys."
Ya could see the anguish on Li'l Brother's face : Iffin' thar' ain't no Santa why's all these others so happy?
Granny, seein' the boy was torn up over this thang, tried to soothe his anxiety, "Sugar Pie, it ain't too late. Write Santy a letter an' we'll put in right on the tree-right on the front of the tree. Mayhap somethin' ya want will still be in his pack of toys."
Poor Li'l Brother, he jes' hunkered down into his disbelief.
We had a Cuzin crash through the door late Christmas Eve, his arms laden wif' bow topped boxes. "Cain't stay, y'all, jes' makin' mah rounds." But he spied the glum disbeliever sittin' off to the side of the sofa in the livin' room fiddlin' wif' a Rubic's Cube, unsolved since it appeared in his stockin' last year.
"Say! Looky heah, this is day for laughin' but youse wearin' a long face, " Cuzin boomed. "Whas' on yore mind, Sonny?"
"Cousin Nick, how come grown ups lie to chillen? Thar' ain't no Santa," Li'l Brother mumbled, his misery sittin' heavy. " I cain't believe in that foolishness no more. What if thar ain't no Santy, but I let mahself be fooled?"
Eying the chile's rigid resolve, Cuzin Nick slid the Rubic's Cube off the boy's lap an started a twistin'.
"Oh, I know that feelin'. Shure now. Lot's a folks go that-a-way. Them's the same folks that believe they seen the haint of Aunt Lizzy in the garden, an' they visit the palm reader over on Jefferson Street. They read their horryscopes an' fear black cats." Cuzin Nick twisted the Cube, click-clack, thwak-wack.
"Well, every fella has to decide this matter hisself. Come to it, it's what ya' is in yore ownself, I reckon. Is ya' gonna believe in Love? In Honor? In Goodness? Iffn' ya cain't believe in love cause it may go astray on ya', then ya cain't be a lover of folks. If ya cain't believe a man can be honorable jes' fer the sake of honor, how's ya gonna be honorable yoreself?
"Worst of all, when folks doan believe in goodness, then goodness, findin' no room fer itself, leaves yore heart. After that, a body only does what they please, wif' nary a thought for the needs of others. See? Goodness, an Love an' Honor cain't make a home whar' thar' ain't no belief."
At the door Pappy Cracker an' Cuzin Nick winked, then Cuzin tossed the Cube back to Lil' Brother. The chile stared down at the puzzle.
It were a warm Christmas an thar' warn't no need to snuggle in our beds. But SugarPlum dreams came right on schedule.
Christmas Day that year were a bright shinny Floridy day. In the large foyer stood bicycles for two chillen, a doll house wif' two stories, a red radio, a Raggedy Ann, some fancy clothes, an assorted surprises.
But, missin' wuz any boy toys. None a'tall.
Amid the whoopin' of his sisters delight, Li'l Brother stood stunned. He looked around in shocked silence. His stocking hung slack next to three stockings overflowing with goodies. Tears slid down his cheeks.
Poor Granny Cracker nearly fainted wif' worry. Pappy Cracker hugged the boy, "Now Son, ya ain't really surprised is ya?"
A wail pierced the house. Sorrow an grief rained down on that happy, gift strewn foyer.
"I believe! I BELIEVE! I believe! I din't know that iffin' I din't believe in Santa that he wouldn't believe in me."
Pappy held that boy fer a minute an' said, "Oh I reckon Santa believes in you, alright. But mebbe he jes' din't want to upset ya none wif' his presents, seein' as how ya' wuz real shure he doan exist."
The Boy sobbed against Pappy's shirt, "I do believe, now. I do."
Pappy loosed the Boy from his arms, tilted up his tear-ravaged face an' said, " Well, now...go sit in the livin' room until time to open our gifts, an let yore sisters enjoy their time under the tree." He done give the Chile a gentle push toward the big room to the side of the foyer. Once again Li'l Brother entered the side room, an' took his dejection to the corner of the sofa. Pappy winked at Granny.
"Oh!! Look look look look looky!!"
We ran into the livin' room to see what all the hollerin' wuz about. Thar wuz a bow wif' a quiver of suction tipped arrows, a BB gun, a pair of boots an' a fine cowboy hat. In the center of the floor wall set up was a multi storied filling station wif' cars up on ramps. The whole back corner of the livin' room were a veritable toy store of boy toys. An' hung over a chair back lay a fat, red striped stockin' overstuffed wif' every trinket an' candy delight a heart could want.
Christmas night we chillen's sank into our beds, an' a pleasant, happy stupor fell over the house. But iffin' any of y'all could peeked in Li'l Brother's room that night, y'all woulda seen all them Santa gifts lined up like soldiers at the foot of his bed. An' on the bedside table under the night light were that Rubic's Cube, its sides all perfect squares of primary colors.