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December 16, 2012 / philosophermouseofthehedge

In Santa’s eyes

My dad was Santa. Really.

It was a secret

And I couldn’t tell anyone.

Pretty hard for a little kid.

Santa by Thomas Nash for Harper's Weekly, 1881. (US Public domain, life of artist + 100 yrs/

Santa by Thomas Nash for Harper’s Weekly, 1881. (US Public domain, life of artist + 100 yrs/

It wasn’t a cheap suit, but one in heavy rich red velvet

Kitten-soft when you hugged.

There wasn’t any sign that the curly white beard wasn’t real.

It was obvious by the way he focused and really listened to each child explain his or her heart’s desire, that this really wasn’t an act.

But he was Santa, right?

He wandered around JMH, a small local grocery, with a bag of candy canes and merrily exclaiming Ho-ho-ho!

Asking each if they had been naughty or nice…even some of the grown-ups!

Convincingly jolly.

Mom was doing the weekly shopping.

And we skated down the polished aisles searching.

Once Santa was in sight, older brother held my hand – just in case I started to blurt anything out.

Once the intense conference with a small boy was ended, Santa stood up waved the child back to his mother.

Then he turned.

And smiled with his eyes and came towards us.

He bent way down until eye to twinkling eye . “Have you been good this year?”

Feeling giggly (who wouldn’t if in league with Santa?), I whispered conspiratorially, “Yes, Santa.”

We each got a candy cane – only one – just like all the other children.

But it was wonderful.(We rarely got candy)

Kids do deserve treats once in a while.

It was a special event worth remembering.


Other events, remembered without such joy. Only confusion.

In the fall of 1959, an angry erratic man walked onto Poe Elementary’s playground where 125 children were having recess, and set off dynamite in a briefcase.

Doctors and responders who had thought they had seen the worst of mankind could offer during their WW II, were stunned at the horror.

These were small children.

Why? Who could do such a thing?

Teachers, 2 children, the man, and his son beside him died.

Others were injured. Clothes were burned off of some.

Later, body parts fell out of trees.

Parents across Houston, hugged their children.

And turned off the TV news.

Spoke in quiet tones when children weren’t around.

But we, the children, heard the silence.

These students were in Jr. High when it happened. They had younger siblings in Poe.

These students were in Jr. High when it happened. They had younger siblings in Poe.

And dad sat down to talk.

There is no explanation why.

Sometimes people are too sick or too angry to think straight.

While there is bad and evil in this world, there is much that is good and beautiful.

But how do you know? How do you know if it’s bad person? That they will do bad things?

He sighed and said. “Look in their eyes. It’s there.”

He should know.

He was Santa, right?

Sometimes you just have to believe.

Especially now.

Once again.

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

If we can understand, maybe it can be stopped.

Anger management badly needed.

Mental health issues need to be recognized and treated.

We at least have to look them in the eyes – and stop ignoring what is there.

Read more?

“The Science of Rampage Violence is, alas, in its Infancy” Eric Berger. (links to other sources)

Scientists search for clues for mass shootings” Houston Chronicle. Eric Berger


  • “The Bath School Disaster”. 1927. An angry insane school board member blew up a  school and killed 45 people – mostly children. His farm had been foreclosed on for back taxes. The taxes were used to build the school.
  • Houston Chronicle. “Survivor recalls 1959 school blast that killed six”
  • Poe school coverage details the tragedy”. About the man (kind to animals, beat his wife, talked to God?) and that day.


  1. jannatwrites / Dec 16 2012 10:19 pm

    Beautiful post. I like how you began with him being Santa and then because of that, trusting his wisdom that you’d know a dangerous person by their eyes. There is some truth in that. I’m sorry that these tragedies happen. It seems like each one gets more horrific, as if it’s some sort of twisted game to best the last one.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 16 2012 11:29 pm

      This was a hard one to write – it does seem like the frequency of events is speeding up. Wish the media wouldn’t ambulance chase so much for ratings. But there’s just too much uncontrolled anger out there.
      THanks for musing along


  2. robincoyle / Dec 16 2012 10:42 pm

    We do have to look mental health issues in the eye and find a way to stop this madness. Excellent post here. How lucky you were to have Santa in your back pocket.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 16 2012 11:26 pm

      It didn’t mean any extra candy canes! Good common sense and a good heart go a long way. Hope your season so far is starry and bright


  3. JackieP / Dec 16 2012 11:09 pm

    unfortunately sometimes we just can’t see the mental health issues until it is much too late. some people hide them very well, and some are much too close to notice, or refuse to notice. It’s been going on since mankind came into existence, I don’t see it going away. And sometimes, sometimes, the un-explainable is just that, un-explainable.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 16 2012 11:25 pm

      So true (have relatives with kid who is covering room with foil so “they can’t find him” – and they have refused to get him help and say he could act better if he wanted…time bomb there.)
      All you can do is try to help you little corner of the world, hope, and accept what you cannot change.
      Thanks for pondering along


  4. Julia Garrison's blog / Dec 16 2012 11:22 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story of Santa, really your dad. It is how sad people do things when they are not treated for what ever ailment they have. Sad, so sad about the children and adults that died, too. This is a lovely story of your dad and how he explained life to you. I enjoyed reading this.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 9:11 pm

      A difficult situation for this time of year. Life is changed for many. Thanks for stopping by to ponder.


  5. rumpydog / Dec 16 2012 11:37 pm

    I think it’s human nature to want to understand why these tragedies occur. I think it’s even more important for each of us to sit with out grief. It’s only through daring to feel the pain of these tragedies that we are going to become willing to talk about them realistically and find ways to stop this madness.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 16 2012 11:42 pm

      You are so right. If the pain of this doesn’t affect a person, that person probably won’t see any reason to change anything. Thanks for stopping by to comment on a hard topic.


    • rumpydog / Dec 16 2012 11:43 pm

      that should read “sit with our grief”


      • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 16 2012 11:47 pm

        (Whoa Woof. My brain just filled it in correctly.)
        Sometimes humans only learn through pain. This event sure offers enough


  6. dogear6 / Dec 17 2012 12:22 am

    I like the kitten soft hug – great imagery! Of course, kittens squirm, but they’re soft for at least a few seconds! I didn’t know about the 1957 incident, but we’d had one where we lived about 20 years ago, before cell phones. It was at a McDonald’s where my husband and daughter went to eat once in a while. It took me all afternoon to find him and find they were okay and had not been there that day. It was terrible too – happened during lunch and wasn’t worse because the guy ran out of bullets and forgot he had more.

    Words cannot express the tragedy or explain it. Thanks for the lovely remembrance of your father – that was great.



    • dogear6 / Dec 17 2012 12:22 am

      1959. Sorry, mixed up the dates.


      • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 3:17 pm

        (giggling) Being a bit dyslexic, I read ideas – not individual images/letters – so my brain read it just fine. Sending you a sunny day so you can go out and play!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 3:15 pm

      It’s not a new thing – there was the Luby’s cafeteria mass shooting (24 dead) in Killen/West TX in ’91. And many others even earlier – the instant ambulance chasing media hype make these events shock wider audiences. I faced down a kid in a classroom with a gun back in ’76..the year before a kid went into his English class (Dallas) and shot because she gave him a B on an essay.
      It seems that the public doesn’t notice a problem until there’s severe trauma. (but they will forget shortly again)
      Anger is a big problem – and the idea that killing is an acceptable solution.
      Wishing quiet and peace to the town and survivors to allow them to put pieces back together. THanks for pausing quietly a bit


      • dogear6 / Dec 18 2012 3:34 am

        Suzanna Hupp’s parents were murdered in front of her at the Luby’s massacre. She’s very vocal that had she not left her gun in the car that day, she might still have them.

        Another big problem, along with anger, is how our media glorifies violence. Even now they’re feeding off of this over and over gain. They show violence wihtout consequences as do all the video games.

        Thanks for your thoughtful answer. I enjoyed reading it.


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 18 2012 12:24 pm

          I’ve heard Suzanna Hupp speak. She’s got a powerful argument based on real experience – not emotion.
          You next to last paragraph hits the nail on the head.
          And parents should use common sense and good judgment. Thanks for checking back


  7. Robin / Dec 17 2012 12:34 am

    Beautiful post. The television and computer have been turned off here for most of the weekend (for the family holiday gathering). I noticed the neighbors have their flags at half-staff today, and am just getting caught up on the current sad (horrific) event.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 3:20 pm

      Actually, a family gathering was the best way to handle it – even unknowingly. Time to make time for what’s important. Hope the bogs are glorious today – thanks for stopping by on the way


  8. Spinster / Dec 17 2012 1:07 am

    Great and expressive post.

    “If we can understand, maybe it can be stopped.

    Anger management badly needed.

    Mental health issues need to be recognized and treated.

    We at least have to look them in the eyes – and stop ignoring what is there.”

    One of the truest stories ever told. Thanks for expressing what many of us cannot.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 3:24 pm

      Thanks for the kind words – just trying to make sense of it all. As well as quiet some of the distracting noises. Wishing you a calm warming day today.


  9. Irene Tobias Rodriguez / Dec 17 2012 1:08 am

    The happy note you started with brought back memories. My dad was Santa too. Only the suit was a cheep one and the beard was obviously fake, but he was Santa Dad. He visited neighbors where the parents had left a gift outside the door for him to “deliver” to the children. My mom taught me that Santa was real – anyone who gives gifts at Christmas is a Santa. Because of this I never went through the trauma of discovering Santa is not real. (This same mother who never shared the “myth” of Santa for me, convinced her granddaughter, my niece, by making boot prints in the fireplace.)

    Back to the recent tragedy – I can’t add any comments that the others have not already written or felt. My prayers are with the victims families and the town.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 4:03 pm

      Oh, Santa and the elves. Dad was explained as Santa’s Helper ’cause so many toys had to be finished at the North Pole – and close to what you were told about all who give gifts. (But then on Christmas Eve they would go outside and toss rocks on the roof and say it was the sleigh and reindeer and we’d better hurry to bed.)
      Maybe it’s the sharp contrast between the tragedy and the holidays that is really hitting people hard. One of the kindest things now is to back off and leave the town alone.
      Thanks for tuning in


      • Irene Tobias Rodriguez / Dec 22 2012 12:31 am

        It’s nice to know the whole country is supporting the families and town of the tragedy. That is important. (Years ago I received support and cards from people I barely knew after I was in an accident. It really helped me recover.) But I agree with you – the media has a tendency to overdo their reporting.

        Merry Christmas to you (and watch for rocks falling off the roof . LOL)


  10. Spinster / Dec 17 2012 1:10 am

    Reblogged this on Spinster's Compass and commented:
    Here’s another one that expresses what many of us can’t express about the Connecticut massacre. Pay attention to the story.


  11. shoreacres / Dec 17 2012 2:22 am

    I’d never heard about Poe. I had friends whose kids went to Poe – much later, of course. Your point is pretty clear.

    This afternoon, I went to the movies. By the time the trailers were over – for films and for video games – I wanted to throw up. There are no words for the level of violence I witnessed in that half hour before the feature film. Anyone who says that doesn’t affect our society is simply wrong.
    Tonight, more news from Newtown – about a survivalist mother, about neighborhood concerns, about people who didn’t want to see

    We have a violence problem, and we have people who desperately need help. If we glorify violence and refuse the help, what we do about guns will be irrelevant.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 4:14 pm

      I walked away from a lot of “entertainment” a while back – It wasn’t amusing. It wasn’t intellectually broadening. It didn’t make me feel happy or better. It makes me sad that kids grow up thinking extreme violence is entertainment…and that many parents don’t even know what kids are seeing.
      We have created this problem.
      1. His eyes seemed flat. No responses/emotions. He was just invisible. He wasn’t quite “right” People too polite/ PC to do anything – just like with Gifford’s shooter? Or the CO movie shooter? Too many avoiding unpleasantness with mental illness and unstable people?
      2. Too much anger. Too many seeing violence as a quick acceptable solution.
      Until those issues are addressed, nothing will stop the violence.
      Guns are a tool, like cars, knives, baseball bats.
      Thanks for hitting a homerun with your comment


      • maddie22201 / Dec 17 2012 4:24 pm

        Thank you for your info…It is nice to see some balance of information and not emotional wrenching. I too think that there needs to be a discussion first on mental health concerns before guns on any grounds are spoken about.

        Also, kids learning to control their impulses with medication first instead of behavioral modification is a senseless bandage to the underlying problem. Parents allowing video games and television to raise their children is also an issue that needs to be address.

        One can go to jail for spanking their child in public but someone can leave their child in front of a tv and as long as they are fed and clothed allow that child total access to the most atrocious experiences. Sorry, I could go on and on. I truly feel for these kids and wish there were more I could do for them, but alas I am not their mother.


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 4:53 pm

          Thanks for your thoughtful comment. In the face of such a horrifying incident, emotions can blur reality. Calm is needed now – not stirring up political issues.
          Parents need to step up. Some need to actually look at their kids – not be so defensive if someone sees a red flag. Everyone said this boy’s eyes were flat- no emotional response. Totally isolated.
          There needs to be more safe places to seek help when intervention is necessary for anger issues or mental health issues.
          The President could help by encouraging calm reflection – and asking men to step up and be real fathers who live in the home and spend time guiding children. And he should condemn and not associate with those who foster violence whether in sports or media/entertainment.
          You said much in your comment. All we can hope is that calm reasonable conversation and actions follow. Thanks for adding a log to this comment campfire


  12. Snoring Dog Studio / Dec 17 2012 1:21 pm

    Shoreacres is right. We in the US seem to be in love with violence and aggression. We want to restrict images of smoking in films, yet we allow the most gruesome and savage violence to infect our movies, video games, and so on. We need a massive cultural change in this country and we need to put money back into mental health services. We need restrictive national gun control laws. It is time to talk about this stuff. If it isn’t, when can we?


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 4:35 pm

      People are going to have to stand up and refuse to give money to venues.
      Mental health services needs to be addressed. It might reduce the homeless on the streets. Caregivers also need to recognize when their family members are past their abilities to care for (major problem) – and there needs to be a safe place for those who need help to go.
      People need to actually look and talk with their kids.
      There’s also a big anger management problem. Violence is seen as a suitable response – that needs to change…perhaps the Justice System should take note? Law enforcement could get some backing instead of criticism?
      The violent crimes don’t stop with gun control: Chicago? Connecticut? Tough gun laws.
      Dec. 14th 22 school kids were stabbed by a man with a knife in China – only one of a series of attacks on very young school children there.
      People turn anything into a weapon if they want to cause harm.
      Important not to kneejerk the “easy” solution and ignore the real problem: anger and unstable people. (those who recognize people in trouble and do nothing to protect others in society)
      I don’t want a quick answer – I want change and solutions.
      (And for those who have had anything to do with violent people or violent crime, those victims are quaking saying “Please do not take away the only protection we have against those who are determined to harm us. Protective orders aren’t worth the paper they are written on. The law can’t stop them. At least give them a chance to protect themselves.” If you’ve experienced this, you would understand)
      Yes, it is time to talk about ALL of it – it’s all on the table – but let’s really look at what really needs to be addressed.
      Thanks for building this important conversation


  13. aFrankAngle / Dec 17 2012 2:39 pm

    Poignant post!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 4:37 pm

      Hard to write. Can’t help but consider the contrast to the normal Christmas season. Time to ponder. Thanks for pausing a moment


  14. Beth Anne Reed / Dec 17 2012 2:58 pm

    “But we, the children, heard the silence.” Well said, and especially evocative that you have chosen older events. You have created a good balance between the ugly and beauty of humanity in this post.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 4:41 pm

      It’s the survivors that all need to be concerned with now. Need to turn towards good in the world now. Thanks for your kind words and adding a flower to the wall. May you have a calm day full of warmth


  15. sandylikeabeach / Dec 17 2012 3:08 pm

    Excellent commentary and beautifully done.


  16. The Hook / Dec 17 2012 7:08 pm

    I’ll never repeat this, but you’ve brought tears to my eyes, my friend. Thank you.
    Your Dad was a very wise, loving man. Thank you for sharing his wisdom.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2012 8:26 pm

      Wouldn’t be surprised if your daughter writes something complimentary about you in the future…quite a way in the future…but sounds like you’ve taken lessons from family there. Dads rock!


  17. EllaDee / Dec 18 2012 12:43 am

    Your post took me to considering good beliefs (Santa Claus) – how wonderful that your Dad is [the real] Santa [in a kitten sfoft suit…aaaahh], and also a very wise man; vs bad beliefs – kidding ourselves everything is fine when we know it’s not. I’ve done my share of self-delusion, and the only person it hurt was me, but I’m ill at ease with any sort of falsity or lack of transparency – apparently a common trait in Sagittarians – truth & justice for all, to the discomfort of many. I’d rather have all the cards on the table: good, bad & indifferent and proceed with integrity. There will always be bad people, occurrences but if we look at them, in the eyes (as your Dad so well cautioned), straight on, they won’t be able to sneak up on us.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 18 2012 1:32 pm

      Best to know the lay of the land. Thanks for your astute comment. Hope you have a warming day for both body and soul.


  18. Kourtney Heintz / Dec 20 2012 4:04 pm

    I love the story of your dad being Santa. So sweet. And I think he is right. You can see in someone’s eyes if they are evil. But it’s really hard to look and to acknowledge it’s there.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 20 2012 6:46 pm

      Life is so complex. Sometimes you just don’t want to see it. But maybe now is the time to focus on good.Thanks for settling in for a story. Wishing you a merry day.


  19. pnwauthor / Jan 15 2013 1:41 am

    Beautiful story, Karen. You’re right society needs to address mental illness and all this stress in our lives that can set off explosive or aggressive situations in the most vulnerable minds.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jan 15 2013 12:38 pm

      People are wired to jerk with emotion immediately – sometimes without seriously analyzing and establishing facts and truth. What is needed is calm and focus on real causes – not pretend fixes or political hot buttons if there is to be a solution to society’s problems. Searching for a bit of common sense in issues. Thanks for your concise evaluation and comments



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