"But Mommy, when is Santa coming?"

Susan Manzke
Becky, Russell, and Robby Manzke gather in front of the Christmas tree back in 1980.

My Christmas memory comes from December 1980. At that point, Bob and I had three children: Robby, 5, Becky, 3 almost 4, and Russell, nearly 1. I had my hands full even without all the shopping and decorating for Christmas and birthdays—Becky and Russell share their birthdays on December 27th.

One day our three kids had their noses pressed to the picture window looking for the first snowflake to fall. How they could see past their own smudges, I don't know, but they did all right because I finally heard a yell for me to hurry into the living room.

"Mommy, it's Christmas!" three-year-old Becky proclaimed. She looked past that lonely little flake and began searching the sky for Santa, whom she was sure would be following.

I tried to explain to her that she had almost a month to wait for Christmas.

"It's snowing!" she cried, refusing to listen to me. Then, in anticipation, she proceeded to tear about the house looking for stockings to hang for Santa to fill.

You may wonder how the kid got the impression Christmas was a roving holiday, which appeared with the advent of the first snow. I don't wonder. I know. I'm the one who started the whole problem.

It all began one hot July day when one of the kids asked, "When's Christmas?"

I don't know how the subject came up, but I answered truthfully, "December 25th."

"When?" five-year-old Robby asked.

"Five months from now." It was hard to concentrate on Christmas while wiping sweat out of my eyes.

"Five what?" Becky wanted to know.

Nothing I said satisfied them. I showed them the calendar, counted the days and holidays between July and December. I did everything I could to answer their questions.

"But Mommy, when is Santa coming?"

I thought again. What could I say?

"It's too hot for Santa to come to Wisconsin. He can't come until it snows. He needs snow for his sleigh."

That they understood. And the questions stopped. I forgot about Santa for a while. I put him out of my mind until the first snowflake found its way past our picture window.

"It's snowing! Santa is coming. How is he getting here?" The questions began again.

So I took out the calendar and we counted the days until Christmas, and I reminded them that grandma's birthday had to come before Christmas, and Santa couldn't come until all the toys were made.

What did all my trouble get me this time?

Another blank look and, "But when, Mommy?"