The Real Santa of Hutchinson

 

The Real Santa of Hutchinson

It’s a funny thing, believing in a child’s fantasy.  There’s no easy way to put it, but I’m an adult man, and I can honestly say, without a doubt in my mind, that Jolly Old St. Nicholas is as real as the year is long.  How can an adult still believe in Santa you ask?  Well, the answer is quite simple.  You see, I know him personally, and I have to say that he is quite a remarkable person.

I didn’t always believe in Santa.  I mean to say that I did, but then I didn’t, and now I do again.

Like most kids, my holidays revolved around Christmas morning and the thought of a seemingly endless pile of gifts stacked under a brightly decorated tree.  I’d spend weeks crafting a list and then sending that list to the North Pole in hopes that it would pass on to the jolly old elf himself.  Around the age of 8 or 9, however, something began to change.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but the thought of Santa as a real person began to feel foolish—how could he do all the things he was purported to do in just one night.  Well, needless to say, my disbelief resulted in no gifts from “Santa” that year, but more from Mom and Dad.  From that point on, until most recently, Christmas was merely a holiday for faith and family, and the excitement of Santa on Christmas Eve became merely a thing of childhood memories.  That was until I met a man who knew him personally.

I began working in Hutchinson just a few years back.  By then, I was a fully grown adult with a child of my own.  He, like me, has grown up with all the joys that a child deserves at Christmas.  Shortly after taking my new position, I met a local man named George.  Do you know him? He’s quite a character.

George had been around Hutch (we call it Hutch to save our breath for more important parts of the conversation) his whole life.  People around town knew him, and still know him, for his good humor as well as his love for the community and his keen skill at “theater”.  Well anyway, one day George came to my work and started to tell a story about Santa.

Some years ago, Santa Claus would come to Hutchinson, go on KDUZ (the local radio station), and talk to the children who so eagerly waited to hear his voice over the phone.  With George’s help, Santa was able to learn the names of all the kids who called KDUZ and discover what it was that they wanted for Christmas.  Of all the kids who called KDUZ, there was one little boy who stood out above all the others.  His name was Raymond Teersteg III.

Raymond was a unique little boy and you’d be hard pressed to find a happier looking child.  He possessed a unique twinkle in his eyes and he had an infectious smile.  Raymond was in 1st grade and went to St. Anastasia’s Elementary School.  His teacher was Miss Cogley.  That year, Miss Cogley decided to have her students write letters to Santa.

Now, as you may have guessed, the kids from Miss Cogley’s class were delighted and asked for all sorts of presents from Old St. Nick – many of them wanted more than just one!  When the letters were finished, they were given to George, who brought them all the way to the North Pole and delivered them to Santa’s desk.

Of all the letters Santa read that year, there was one that stood out to him.  Instead of asking for several presents, one letter simply read, “Dear Santa, I will leave milk and cookies for you.  I have been good ALL the time.  I would like a race car and that is it.  Love Raymond.”  Yep, that’s right, the letter came from little Raymond, and Santa knew right away that he had a touch of the Christmas spirit.

As Christmas drew near, Santa made his annual visit to KDUZ so the kids in Hutchinson could talk to him personally on the radio.  Would you have guessed it, one of the callers was Raymond.  Santa knew right away who it was and was overjoyed to hear Raymond’s voice.

 

Santa: Merry Christmas!  Is there someone on the line there waiting to talk to Santa?

Raymond: Hello.

Santa: Is this Raymond?

Raymond: YES!!!

Santa: Raymond Teersteg?

Raymond:  Haha YES!!!

Santa: Raymond, how are you doing buddy?  Oh, hohoho…You’re six years old this year?  Do you know who you’re talking to?

Raymond: Yes, Santa!!

Santa: Oh, hohoho, that’s right!  It’s so good to hear your voice, and what would you like for Christmas?  Can you tell old Santa Claus?

Raymond: A big puzzle…

Santa: You know, Santa used to work in a puzzle factory, but I had to quit working there.  You know why?

Raymond: No…

Santa: Well, one day I just felt myself going to pieces, Oh ho ho ho…I leave the puzzle making to the elves now.  Raymond, what grade are you in school? 

Raymond: First Grade..

Santa: And who is your teacher?

Raymond: Miss Cogley…

Santa: Oh?  Does she ever do the turtle for you?

Raymond: Yes??

Santa: And what does she do when she does it?  Can you tell old Santa Claus?

Raymond: I don’t know…

Santa: Did you forget it?  That’s OK, when you go to school on Monday, you tell Mrs. Cogley…Miss Cogley, I always try to marry her off and say Mrs. Cogley, but she’s a good friend of Santa’s and you just ask her about doing the turtle sometime.  Boy, that would be a lot of fun to see that.  Well listen, is there anything else you’d like for Christmas, Raymond?

Raymond: There is…

Santa: Ok, what would you like?

Raymond: A super GIANT PUZZLE!!

Santa: A SUPER GIANT PUZZLE…Oh hohoho…With millions of pieces huh? 

Raymond: Yes!!

Santa: All cut the same way…whoa hohoho.  Well I’ll see what I can do.  You sound like a very nice young man.  Study hard in school.  Merry Christmas to you, Raymond, bye bye now!

Raymond: Bye!

 

It was a call that stuck with Santa forever.  You could just hear the excitement and the wonderment in Raymond’s voice.  It was a great reminder, even for Santa,  of what Christmas was truly about.

Well, Christmas came and went.  Santa visited homes all over the world on Christmas Eve and brought cheer everywhere he went.  Then, when the season was over, Santa returned home to start preparing for next Christmas.  Meanwhile, in Hutchinson, our friend George went back to his routine around town.  If you didn’t know, in addition to being one of Santa’s helpers, George is also a clown who spreads humor all over town.  One day George received a call from Raymond’s teacher.  At first he was afraid that Santa did something wrong, but instead Miss Cogley was calling for Raymond’s parents and they wanted George to thank Santa for giving Raymond a very special Christmas.  She also said that every day Raymond came into class he asked her to do the turtle, and she obliged every time he asked.  Oh, in case you are wondering, the turtle means that Miss Cogley would get on her back, put her hands and feet in the air, and rock back and forth like an upside down turtle.

Another week passed.  George’s phone rang.  It was Miss Cogley again, but this time she had some heartbreaking news for George to pass along to Santa.  I guess a few nights earlier Raymond crawled up into his dad’s lap and went to heaven.  George was stunned – those kinds of things aren’t supposed to happen to little kids, especially at Christmas time.  Well, George passed the news along to Santa, and the two of them decided they had to do something for the family.  The visitation was the next day, so they had to act fast.  They decided to make a wreath, a special wreath, one that would help people remember Raymond for his kindness and joyous spirit.

With a little help from St. Nick, George went to work.  He took the letter from Raymond to Santa and had it laminated.  Next, he went to a shop in Hutchinson, Crow River Floral, and found an artificial, but very lifelike, wreath.  Then, he went to the Village Shop, he asked Jo, the owner, if she could help him and Santa collect some items for the wreath.  Together, they found a racecar, a cookies and milk Christmas ornament, and a large puzzle piece that could be stretched around the entire wreath…you have to see it to believe it!  Next, George found a little cherub and a little Santa Claus ornament.  All the items were placed on the wreath with the angel on top, and Santa on the bottom.  Even Raymond’s laminated letter was added.  That night, George couldn’t sleep.  He thought the wreath needed one more thing.  Then it came to him, a turtle!  The next morning he put a little turtle on the wreath.

On the next day, George went to St. Anastasia’s church for the visit.  Unfortunately, Santa couldn’t make it.  George had never met Raymond before.  Gathered around his resting place were flowers and family, friends, and others who wanted to see Raymond one last time.

George saw Miss Cogley and said hi, he then went up to Raymond to make sure the wreath was there.  It was.  George didn’t stay long, just glanced at Raymond and noted that he sure looked like a nice little boy.

George was sure that he never knew the Teersteg family, but as luck would have it, he did know Raymond’s mom.  In fact, he was well acquainted with her—it made the loss of Raymond even more heartbreaking as no one should have to bear the loss of a little boy who touched so many peoples’ hearts.  Even Santa could attest that Raymond’s joy was so much it was contagious and infected everyone around him.

 

Some time went by.  Santa kept on making toys at the North Pole, and George kept on making people laugh in Hutchinson.  As you might say, the world just kept turning.  Then one day George noticed there was a package on his back steps.  He thought it was odd as the Post Office had never delivered packages back there, but low and behold, there was a rectangular box.

He brought the box in his house and opened it up.  On top was a letter, and before he reached in to see what else was there, he read the letter.  It was from Raymond’s mother and she was thanking George for what he and Santa had done for Raymond and for her.  The letter also said that inside the box was a stuffed bunny.  She said the bunny was special as it belonged to Raymond.  It was his “nighttime buddy” and his favorite one at that!  In a twist of fate, it turned out that Raymond named the bunny George!  He never knew Santa’s helper George, and George never knew Raymond, but sometimes “fate” just works in mysterious ways.  Well, Raymond’s mom felt that the bunny would be in good hands and that George should have it.  A more poetic and heartfelt Christmas gift there may never be!

That’s the story of George, Raymond, and Santa.  Some would call it the story of “Santa and the Little Angel”.  For me, when George told me that story, I couldn’t help but feel it pull at the old heart strings.  I never knew Raymond, but his story was certainly one that made me feel how special Christmas is for a little boy or girl, especially when it comes to something as pure and simple as a visit, or a chat, with Santa Claus.

Well, I still wasn’t so sure about how George knew Santa.  After all, it’s a big claim for a grown adult to say they are a personal friend of the jolly old elf.  As luck would have it, George had just the right way to prove to me that Santa is as real as the day is long.  While he told me Raymond’s story, I was reminded that while some would say he is a myth, for one little boy, Santa was as real as Christmas itself.  Now I can’t say that I ever saw George and Santa together, but as I listened I knew he  was telling the truth.  Afterall, when someone has a twinkle in their eye and joy in their laugh, you just can’t help but believe what they say, especially when they talk about the true meaning of Christmas!

 

*Just a side note, for this year’s Christmas program at the museum, the real Santa of Hutchinson will be on hand for the kiddos and, I suppose, the adults to talk with.  Make sure to come early, as I imagine someone this popular might have quite the audience!  The event is on December 1, and begins at 6:30pm.  There will be live music, Santa, as well as free hats for the first 100 guests!