One deep and dark Christmas Eve in the mid 1950s, the door to my bedroom opened slightly and Santa himself peeked in, said not a word, "and went straight to his work." But, unfortunately, there couldn't be any "laying a finger aside of his nose and giving a nod" before rising up the chimney.
My five-year-old self had been very worried that the little post-World War II ranch house my parents had so proudly purchased had no chimney.
I'd known what to expect that night from all the Christmas carols my dad sang along to in his wonderful glee club tenor and from my Little Golden Book of "The Night Before Christmas."
To add to the excitement, on early Christmas Eve, radio stations would announce that radar had picked up the "jolly old elf, miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer" leaving the North Pole with a sleigh full of toys. But how would he get me my toys with no chimney to come "down with a bound?"
Luckily for me, my parents had assured me that Santa was magical enough to get in without a chimney. And so my little sister and I trustingly thumbtacked our red felt stockings to a small bookshelf in the living room and tried to sleep.
And I went to sleep in the absolute certainty that “St. Nicholas soon would be there.” This despite the shocking revelation earlier that season from an older neighbor, Susie, that there was no Santa. She had allegedly seen her parents filling the stockings. I brought this horrifying news to my parents who simply brushed it off and assured me she was mistaken.
I have a clear memory of marching across the street and confidently informing Susie, "There is so a Santa! My parents said so."
I still have that now 60-plus year old felt stocking to hang up each year "by the chimney with care." But I no longer have the wise, loving parents who kept my childhood safe and protected, and my Christmases magical and filled with wonder and anticipation.
For all of us — Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu — who have lost the generation between us and death, there is a special poignancy to memories and ghosts of holidays past. Yet there is also a deep and abiding gratitude for their great gift of childhoods blessed with unquestioning trust and wondering eyes.
Elizabeth Vozzola taught psychology at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut. She is working on a second edition of her book, "Moral Development: Theory and Applications."