I first met that jolly old elf at the old Cinderella City mall in Englewood, Colo., where he occupied a gawdy throne and stat stoically and patiently, awaiting the requests of what I assumed at the time to be thousands of kids, myself and my brothers included.
But I do recall that odd mix of excitement and fear in my bones as I inched closer to this jolly fat man, dressed in a bright red velvet suit, trimmed in what I assumed at the time to be white fur procured from naughty polar bears, and sporting a beard so white and fluffy that I wondered if it could possibly be real. It might have been my first-ever true experience with anxiety, not that I'm a frequent sufferer.
Then there was my senior year in high school, a center on the varsity basketball team and on the free-throw line with the score tied against fourth-ranked Carthage. Turns out, with 20 bucks, a witness and a county judge, you can actually make that arrangement happen faster than you might think. Then there is the arrival of both my children--one horribly stressful and the other meticulously planned.
I owe Santa for, of all things, a machete he somehow transported from the North Pole to our little house in east Texas without bloodshed in 1983.
But mostly, I want to thank Santa for the visions of wonder and expressions of awe that he's put on the faces of my children. And, through their unquestioning love for this man they met once a year in a place not unlike the old Cinderalla City Mall, I, too, began to believe again.
There's something about cruising down out of Siberia and onto the Mongolian steppe country that just takes my breath away. Well, with some pretty cool talents already, I think I'd be gluttonous to ask for much more.
Note: This is the first in a series of posts focusing on the ecological issues facing the coastal estuaries of south Florida .

This is the fourth and final post in a series focusing on the  ecological issues facing the coastal estuaries of southern Florida .
Contact us with a description of the clipart you are searching for and we'll help you find it. It took me a few months and gobs of red bricks but I think it turned out pretty well for my first shot at something this big.
Daily Cartoon Email Get the daily cartoon email right in your inbox. Please Note: All cartoons are copyrighted material and may not be used for profit without permission. There have been other moments in my life when I can recall that deep-in-my-soul feeling of gut-wrenching anticipation, but they've been few enough to where I can recall most of them. With that blade, I hacked my through some of the stickiest country in the Big Thicket as my brothers and I explored the river and creek bottoms in a place we thought was about as wild as it could get.
For years, as they followed Santa's annual journey around the globe thanks to NORAD and the wonders of the Internet, they believed. It's the highlight of my annual journey, and I always slow down to look at the rivers running through that country.
I mean, do you know anybody else who can deliver 4 billion presents around the world in one night, squeeze down a billion chimneys and pilot a sleigh driven by flying caribou? There was that definitive moment in sixth grade, when I finally mustered the courage to ask Chris Hawthorne to "go" with me--why she took so long to answer, I'll never know (but I do know that was 1981, not long after the Atari 2600 Christmas).
As the line moved, and my turn atop the old man's lap approached, I don't think I'd ever been that uptight.

I'm in his debt for that first "big boy" fishing rod, a white fiberglass pole equipped with a thumb-release reel and what must have been 20-pound-test mono. They believed that a squatty old elf from way up north could touch their lives and and their hearts, sometimes to excess. Claus that everything went as planned, there were no problems, and that I gave most of the cookies to the reindeer.
Wallpaper images in the Christmas club tagged: christmas merry christmas santa claus wallpaper. It yanked many a fat carp from the bottom of Stern Park Lake, and one fat rainbow trout from that little urban reservoir that stretched the tape to 18 inches. They believed that goodness existed on this earth and that it started and ended with a bearded sleigh driver being toted about by eight magical reindeer--nine when the weather was particularly nasty.
The latter is sometimes true--Blitzen gets a little grumpy if I don't share some of the cookies. From the time I handed the note to my friend Richard for delivery, to the time I got it back, complete with the "yes" box checked in purple ink seemed a miserable eternity. I remember, when I finally opened the note in sixth-hour social studies, how relieved--and then terrified--I was.
It didn't take me long to realize that I was no longer single, no longer "on the market." At 11, I was spoken for.

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