Every child wonders if Santa Clause is real. I have two memories of times when I was pretty sure he was real or at least quite ambivalent about it.
One year the missionaries stationed in Ogbomoso had a special guest at the annual Christmas party. I found out later that he was actually a European visitor, but at the time, he appeared in the room as Santa Clause in the flesh. Many of the older MKs were convinced he was an imposter but none of us could figure out who he really was to save our lives. We would guess one missionary uncle after another only to look around the room and see them all accounted for. In my little mind, if he was not one of my missionary uncles, who else could he possibly be there in the heart of Africa at Christmas time? Though at some level, I knew he was not the real Santa.
The other memory was even more magical. One Christmas Eve as I lay in my bed about to go to sleep, I spotted what must have been an airplane in the sky through the window that was just above my bed. I lived in what we called the Wests' House then. All houses on the mission were temporarily named after the family who had most recently resided in them. That year we were living in the house the West family usually occupied, while they were in the states on furlough. (My MK friends will know which house this was by the name.)
My room had a bed right up against a window. I often looked out that window at the night sky as I was falling asleep. That night when I looked, I saw a light flying slowly across the sky. I suppose it could have also been a falling star, but it moved more like an object.
Spotting an airplane in the sky was a rare treat in Nigeria in the 1960’s, especially in Ogbomoso where I lived. Once or twice I can remember hearing a plane through the screen window while at school. It was such a rarity that we all ran out of the classroom, turned our heads up toward the sky and just watched it—including the teacher!
So, I lay there that Christmas Eve watching that light move slowly across the sky. I was pretty convinced it was a plane, but my heart was filled with that magical feeling that perhaps, just perhaps, it was actually Rudolf’s nose pulling Santa’s sleigh. I mean, an airplane flying over Ogbomoso on Christmas Eve was equally as unbelievable.