Santa Spirit
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Santa Spirit

Bow’s Real Santa

Beth D’Ovidio

If there were suburbs in New Hampshire, Bow, NH would be a suburb of the state capital, Concord. Years ago, I unexpectedly found myself plucked from my suburban Washington, D.C. home, and living as a single mom with two young daughters in the quintessential New England hamlet. How that happened is a story for another day.

At the time, it was the town’s good fortune to have a special man of some notoriety residing there — Santa Claus. His appearance matched Clement Clarke Moore’s T’was the Night Before Christmas description to a tee. His pure white beard was real; his red velvet suit was trimmed in real white fur; he knew all the children’s names. Surely, he was the true, one and only St. Nick himself! And, so the whole of Bow and surrounding towns believed.

Everyone knew where Santa lived. It was a green house on a busy road and on a bit of a curve. There, you would see him in his front yard, always with a mischievous smile, a twinkle in his eye, and a wave for all passersby. Sometimes he would be washing his red pickup truck with the license plate “HoHoHo.” My daughters were convinced he drove that truck to his sleigh, wherever that was stashed away for the big annual flight.

Santa was in great demand every fall. Everyone wanted to see him. Being jolly and all, he accommodated all that he could. From parades to office parties, he would appear always with his beautifully embroidered magic sack and an ample supply of candy canes. He would visit the Bow schools and give each child his undivided attention as they told him their holiday yearnings. He prepared for that by meticulously learning the names and descriptions of the latest and most in-demand toys each year.

At the time, I owned a small children’s store in downtown Concord. Early in December, the City’s merchants host an annual “Midnight Merriment” event. The shops stay open until Midnight. Main Street is shut to vehicles and merry shoppers fill the streets. There are numerous attractions such as carolers, dancers, a horse-drawn cart, and Santa Claus. The real Santa from Bow always came to my store to hear the wishes of the children who would line up all the way down the street to see him. He patiently and intently listened to each child and would wait for just the right photo for the beaming parents. My daughters were especially pleased with themselves to have some role in hosting the jovial fellow.

It was our holiday custom to go to a now-defunct department store, Jordan Marsh, one Saturday morning each December. We went to their restaurant for breakfast with Santa. The waffles were shaped like reindeer, the décor was magical, and it was a memorable family experience. You had to make your reservation by the end of September to be guaranteed a spot. It was a very big deal to my daughters, Tara and Kelly — and to me, I confess. The year Tara was seven and Kelly was five, Tara had Chicken Pox early the week of our Breakfast with Santa. It was a mild case, but Chicken Pox just the same. I prayed her fever would break and the welts would disappear in time for our big outing. Those prayers were answered, but there was a wrinkle — Friday afternoon I watched Kelly’s face become populated with pox one by nasty red itchy one. What was I going to do?! I couldn’t penalize Tara because her sister had Chicken Pox (which she had given her, by the way), so instead of having two devastated children, I arranged for our across the road “adopted grandparents” (neighbors) to stay with Kelly while Tara and I kept our plan of going to breakfast with Santa. As one would imagine, Kelly was distraught. I did have an idea, though. I called the real Santa and explained the situation to him.

When Tara and I returned from our breakfast that Saturday, Tara immediately told her sister that “it was just one of Santa’s helpers, Kelly. You didn’t miss the real Santa.” I thought that was very benevolent of her. Nonetheless, Kelly was still very sad over her quarantine.

Later that afternoon, the doorbell rang. Tara raced to the door, and there stood the real Santa! He greeted us with a jolly “Ho! Ho! Ho!” and said one of his elves had reported that Kelly was sick and he dropped by to check in on her since it was so close to Christmas and all. Kelly’s face truly lit up like Christmas! Her eyes sparkled like little Christmas lights surrounded by red pox ornaments, and her smile extended from ear to ear. Santa had some milk and cookies with us and inquired about what might be a good gift for each of the girls before he left for his next stop. The truth was his presence at our home was the best gift of all. It was a memory I will forever treasure.

Our real Santa left us in December of 1999. It was a quiet passing. Everyone knew how this loss may affect the children, so it went by quietly. Some say he had cancer, but I think the true cause was his broken heart due to the disease keeping him from being able to partake in his annual activities.

My eyes well up with tears whenever I think of him fondly. In my mind and soul, he was the real Santa Claus. May his spirit fill all of our hearts and inspire us to be kind to one another.

You can learn more about the Santa Spirit at



The Santa Spirit is inclusive to all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, family compositions, ages, religions, cultures, nationalities, and abilities




Stories, poems & descriptions of ways we can be nicer to each other all year round.

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