By Bonnie Neely
December school holidays were approaching, and we joyfully prepared to drive in our trusty little RV to South Carolina to be with family for Christmas. But the task was like moving since we had to take all the gifts for eight extended family members and for our children. Our one-year-old son was unconcerned but just went placidly wherever we did. He had already adjusted to a life of travel. At ages seven and five, our kids were both excited about seeing grandparents, uncles, aunt, and cousins but also concerned, “What if Santa doesn’t know where we are?”
I responded, singing:
“Santa Claus is comin’ to town. He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, So be good for goodness’ sake! “
Bill added, “Of course, Santa will know we are in South Carolina, and he will even find our RV. It will be such fun!”
Late at night, a couple of days before we left home, we had secretly wrapped the gifts for our children. Our little RV had a small compartment in the back, which opened only to the outside. We carefully stowed all these very important, long-wished-for gifts there and locked the compartment, knowing the kids would not find them.
At last, school ended, and we said goodbye to our pretty little Christmas tree and made sure it was unplugged. We set out on the thousand-mile drive joyfully expectant. One important task required us to stop at a mall along the way a couple of times each day. We told the kids it was to see the holiday decorations and stretch our legs, so we wouldn’t get tired. They needed no coaxing because, of course, Santa’s helper was in each mall! They could tell each elf helper to remind Santa they would be in South Carolina, not Texas!
Bill stood in the Santa line with our older two while I pushed the baby’s stroller to a toy store to find the urgently needed, most special toy our daughter wanted: a Crissy doll, and Bill and I thought it to be the ugliest doll ever created. But in ads on children’s TV Crissy doll had short, thick auburn hair, and when someone pushed the button on her stomach, her hair would grow quite long! Our daughter had to have that doll, and since it was the hot item for little girls, we had not been able to find one anywhere. We really needed to find that doll to purchase.
Finally, at the third shopping stop along the way, I found the very last Crissy doll at the toy store. What a relief! The store wrapped it for me, and I carefully hid it among my clothes in the RV since I did not have the key to open the back compartment, which was stuffed full anyway. Later, after Santa’s lap had been duly occupied by our two happy kids, who now knew the jolly old man was sure to find them in South Carolina, we drove on with no more necessary stops.
The next day, we were covering the miles on the main highway when the driver behind us began beeping his horn repeatedly. Bill checked our speedometer and saw we were going the speed limit, and nothing we could detect on the dash was wrong, but the honking continued. Finally, Bill had to pull to the shoulder of the road and get out to ask what was wrong. The man pointed to our rear compartment which had come open, and a few presents had fallen out along the highway. We were so grateful to him and hoped nothing very important was missing. Bill secured the compartment tightly, and we moved on. Since it would be useless to backtrack to try to retrieve them, we hoped someone would enjoy the gift find. We could seek other stores in South Carolina when we determined what was missing.
On Christmas Eve, Granddaddy asked our children if they would like to go see Santa’s helper at the mall.
“Yes!” they excitedly exclaimed. “We need to be sure he knows we are here now,” our son informed him. We set out eagerly, and I stood in the long Santa line with our kids. A baby about nine months old in front of us was on Santa’s lap and we were next, so very close. Suddenly our healthy seven-year-old daughter sneezed. To our great surprise, horror, and laughter, out flew her very loose front tooth, and it landed on Santa’s shoulder! The jolly old elf laughed and presented it to me as our young Carol climbed onto his lap. What a story to tell forever after. That night both the tooth fairy and Santa paid a visit to our little RV!
If you found this true tale delightful, please enjoy many more in my new book, just out in bookstores everywhere and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Spotify, Apple books and more. Please ask for Real Ventures: Did We Really Do That?!! by Bonnie Burgess Neely, A perfect holiday gift for any age, whether a traveler or one who just enjoys good books. Our RV travel tales are hilarious and sometimes frightening as we ventured in 8 countries during school holidays.