top of page
  • Jefferson Weaver

Jefferson Weaver • Two Brothers and a Rooftop

Once upon a time, a little boy saw Santa Claus from his brother’s bedroom.

It was an old, old house, built by a wealthy family many years before even the boy’s parents were born. Where it had once been a lavish home on one of the town’s best streets, it was now just another old house.

His brother had a room in what had been a sleeping porch on the second floor. The room had been enclosed when the old house was converted into apartments during World War II, with a staircase outside leading to the alley. The staircase was long gone, but the door was still there so the boy’s brother could help the deliveryman put oil in the upstairs tank.

The oil tank was one of three that fed the old house’s heaters, but the heat never seemed to reach his brother’s room in the winter time. He had an electric heater that he used when things got too cold.

The boy rarely got to go to his brother’s room; it took a while but he finally understood that his brother, at 18, was nearly a grown man, and a grown man shouldn’t have to put up with little kids. The boy didn’t want to go into their sister’s room, except to bother her.

But while the boy rarely entered his brother’s room, he was strictly forbidden to go out the door to the roof. He might fall down, his mother said.

His brother sat in the doorway often, smoking cigarettes and watching the sunset. When their sister got married and everyone came to the wedding, their oldest brother and his wife took a guitar and a clarinet out to the roof, and his brother joined them with his cornet. The neighbors gossiped about the concert for weeks, and his father was scandalized.

But that was in June, and this was December.

A cold north wind whistled through the clapboards of the old house, making a mockery of the sawdust insulation that had settled years before. Still, they were snug and warm, wrapped in quilts and thick pajamas, filled with their mother’s homemade hot chocolate.

It was Christmas Eve, his parents had banished him from the living room where the big Christmas tree was ablaze with lights and ornaments. His brother was given charge of the boy, and had said he could stay in his room for the night.

Then his brother told him they might see Santa Claus from the door to the roof.

The boy was suspicious.

His brother was much older, too old to believe in Santa Claus. The boy was beginning to suspect something about Santa, but he still wanted to believe.

His brother had a big multi-band radio, a fancy thing with several dials and channels where one could listen to the television as well as AM and FM. They tried listening to the shortwave channels, too, but never heard anything on those.

This particular night, the radio station from Raleigh – what their daddy called the “state” radio or “capital” radio – was broadcasting Christmas music and giving regular updates about sightings of Santa Claus. The radio said Santa was following a flight path that circled the globe, and the circles kept getting closer and closer to North Carolina.

The announcer was a good reporter; he talked to radar operators at the big airports, and even had a statement from someone with the military. His brother reassured the boy that the Army, the Air Force, and the Marines wouldn’t mistake Santa for a Russian bomber and shoot him down.

The boy got sleepier and sleepier, but like kids everywhere, he was determined to stay awake if there was a chance of seeing Santa Claus. The radio didn’t help since the announcer was playing softer and softer Christmas songs, and they made the boy even sleepier. The announcer also said it was time for good little boys and girls to be in bed asleep.

When the announcer said that Santa’s sleigh had been reported near Fort Bragg, the boy’s brother checked his watch, and told the boy to wrap his quilt a little tighter – they were going out on the roof.

The boy didn’t have to be told twice.

The brothers stepped out onto the threshold and the boy’s brother kept a firm grip on him as the cold seeped from the roof through his little boy slippers. It was a classic Christmas Eve night, the kind described in the stories of the Christ Child’s birth, with a blue-black sky sprinkled with points of polished ice and Venus rising like the Christmas star.

“Look there,” his brother said, pointing southwest toward the river. “Are those lights?”

And sure enough, the boy saw red lights, a string of them like might be on a sleigh and eight reindeer, swooping along the horizon. The lights dipped and rose, and the boy was sure this meant Santa Claus had come to town.

“We better get to bed,” the older brother said. “You don’t want Santa to catch you awake, do you?”

So the brothers piled under the quilts in the cold room with the door to the roof, and went to sleep. The boy’s brother even left the door open for a little while so they could watch the lights. The boy awoke once in the night and looked out the side window (where the roof over the porch made a natural landing strip for a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer) and was sure he saw red lights above the wind-whipped street a few blocks away.

Years later, when the boy was grown, he heard how a local pilot liked to add a few lights to his airplane and fly around on Christmas Eve, playing Santa Claus. It made sense to the grown-up boy, although part of him still wanted to believe. He knew by then that the red lights he saw above the street were nothing but the wind shaking the traffic lights near the house.

But no matter the explanation, the boy always remembered that year.

It was when his big brother let him walk through the door to the roof so he might still believe in Santa Claus, at least for one more year.

23 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page