It was a grey December afternoon when I heard the engines in the distance. Within minutes they were at the bottom of our street, getting louder with the approach.
I hollered to my daughter in the other room, calling to her: “Come quick! Come quick! Santa on a fire engine!”
She came scampering through the threshold with a questioning look on her face.
“Look,” I said. “Santa!”
I opened the front door to reveal an ambulance and three fire trucks, all with lights a-flashing, sirens a-wailing, and horns a-blasting.
My daughter’s eyes filled with fear at the sound, and she reached up to be held. Looking away from a waving Santa, her body shivered in my arms.
Two nights later the scene repeated itself as we were visiting friends in another neighborhood.
Apparently, it was Santa’s turn to ride the fire truck here, and with the door open, my daughter again reached for the comfort of a parent’s arms and shivered in fear.
For the next few weeks, any time my daughter saw Santa Claus – be it in a coloring book, on TV, or at a store, she gave a statement that she uttered more as a question:
“No noise. No noise.”
It was her way of asking for reassurance that a parade of decibel-piercing sirens wasn’t soon to follow.
It was months before the fear dissipated, as she became anxious at all sounds – airplanes, trolleys, garbage trucks, motorcycles, and more.
Perhaps the quiet of the humble manger is a better introduction to Christmas than Santa, sirens, and screaming horns.