An Encounter of the Magical Kind
By Jerry Zezima
In 1897, which was before my time (6 a.m. is before my time, too, but that’s another story), a little girl named Virginia asked if there was a Santa Claus.
In 2015, a little girl named Chloe got up at 6 a.m. in her grandparents’ house and asked for breakfast. Then she asked if there was a Santa Claus. She found out when she went to see the right jolly old elf at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove, New York.
As an occasionally naughty boy trying to get on the good list so I can receive reindeer underwear for Christmas, I am not lying when I say that he was the best Santa I’ve ever seen. His real name is Ernest Johnson, but he is known in holiday circles as Santa Ernie.
“I love being Santa Claus,” he told me in a phone conversation a couple of weeks before meeting my granddaughter, Chloe.
Santa Ernie has greeted good little boys and girls every year since 2001. But he took the role long before that, in 1979, at the age of 40.
“I told a little girl four years ago that I was 654, which makes me 658 now,” Santa Ernie said.
“You don’t sound a day over 483,” I replied.
“Being Santa Claus keeps me young.”
He certainly looked the part. His mouth was drawn up like a bow while the beard on his chin was as white as the snow. He had both the broad face and the little round belly– that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.
“Hello, Chloe!” he said, his blue eyes twinkling behind round spectacles.
“Santa!” exclaimed Chloe, who was 2 at the time, accompanied by her parents and grandparents and wearing a red Christmas dress, with a gift-box bow in her blond curls.
About the Author
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for his hometown paper, The Stamford Advocate in Connecticut. His column is distributed by the Tribune Media Service and has run in newspapers nationwide and abroad. It also is a regular feature on the Huffington Post. If you have ever wondered why journalism is in trouble, it would be because of him.
Mr. Zezima is the author of three books, “Leave It to Boomer,” “The Empty Nest Chronicles” and “Grandfather Knows Best,” all of which are crimes against literature. They also come in handy for propping up wobbly table legs.
As a chilling example of just how low journalistic standards have sunk, he has won many awards, including six for humorous writing from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
Mr. Zezima has extensive television and radio experience and is a popular public speaker. He even has a blog: https://www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com
He lives on Long Island, N.Y., with his wife, Sue. They have two daughters, two granddaughters and many creditors.
Mr. Zezima has no interesting hobbies.