• 64°

Santa Claus really is coming to town

Ladies and gentlemen, Santa Claus is on his way!

I can feel it in my bones.

Why, just the other day snow fell in south Texas, if you can believe it. Then it fell right here in LaGrange, too. You probably remember just where you were when somebody yelled out, “Look, it’s snowing!”?

When you saw it, you probably realized right off the bat:

“Well, Santa must be on his way.”

I can tell he’s coming because of some of the cravings I get. I’ve had powerful urges for some hot chocolate with marshmallows, or — like the nice waitress in Gatlinburg fixed us the other day — hot chocolate with whip cream half a foot high.

Or, I bet we all could go for some of that seasonal hot, spicy apple cider. I think they’re now fancying up the name and calling it “Wassail” or something.

I’ve had the urge to get a cup of one or the other and build a fire, prop my feet up and watch “Home Alone.”

And just today I was wishing “It’s a Wonderful Life” would come on, something you never wish for in July.

I’ve been thinking about certain toys from the growing-up years: slinkies, toy train sets and bicycles with streamers in the handle bars.

And B.B. guns.

Could we go back there again, just for a moment? Well, maybe we just did.

Whenever my heart’s radar starts picking up Santa, I always think about my big brother Wayne. He’s the one who — back when I was about 9 — foolishly tried to tell me there’s no Santa Claus. I had to laugh at that one. Just ask my granddaughter I call “Pretty Eyes.” She’s nine now, and even she knows Santa is as real as that snowman you built in your front yard the other day.

Yes, he’s got to be getting near. I’ve had this unexplained urge of late to gather my family all together and head to Georgia to spend some time with Grandma. Oh, I know: She’s been gone now for more than a decade, but that doesn’t take away that desire to go home and sit at her table for the holidays. Of course, it was always Christmastime at Grandma’s.

If all of those signs aren’t enough to convince you that the white-bearded fella’s reindeer are in the air, then put your hand to your ear.

Do you hear what I hear?

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head …”

And then my next favorite: “Silver bells … silver bells … it’s Christmas time, in the city …”

While we were all in Gatlinburg last week, I walked into a store three or four times to be greeted with one of these two favorites. Ah, Santa must be pulling out of the station.

Then, once back home, Pretty Eyes, Connor-man and I walked downstairs after visiting the amazin’ blonde’s mom and dad at their assisted living home. The minute we got to the lobby, I heard my song:

“Silver Bells.”

An older lady — whose memory you could tell was not what it used to be — was playing the tune on the piano. We stopped, and I asked her to play it again, this time as I filmed it.

My grandkids kind of looked at me like that horse looked at Robert Frost while he was stopping by the woods on a snowy evening. But that didn’t deter me one bit more than it did the poet.

I better stop those silvery bells from ringing for a moment, or I’ll be getting watery-eyed. It’s too early for that. Santa is still a few million roof-tops away.

There’s one more sign Santa and those reindeer are bound for our town: That one story we love to hear is the most popular story in the world right now, just for a few more days. It’s the greatest of all. Oh, I can’t tell it yet, but don’t be surprised if we share it together on one of our Saturday visits in a week or two.

I’m hoping you’ve already started seeing the signs and hearing the sounds around you, too. If not, I’d better remind you of this.:

Slow down just a bit.

Fix you a smooth, marshmallowy cup of hot chocolate.

Sit by the fireplace in your housecoat and slippers and flip through the TV ‘til you run across a movie starring Mr. Jimmy Stewart.

And listen for those sleigh-bells ringing a joyful tune in the air. When you hear it, you’ll know what we’re saying is true:

Santa Claus really is coming to town!

Steven Ray Bowen is a former Granger who lives and writes in Red Oak, Texas.