The year a police department restored a child's faith in Santa
My wife was wrong for one of the few times in our marriage. This was exactly the way to spend Christmas
The alarm buzzed at 3:00 AM. I rolled over to silence it and sat up in bed. My wife asked, “Tell me how this getting promoted is a good thing for us again? This is no way to spend Christmas.”
The promotion was supposed to be a good thing, however it meant I was now one of the junior sergeants and I would be working Christmas Day. I got up, showered and quickly changed into my uniform. I wanted to be at work by 4:45 AM so Gerry Garvey (a classmate and the sergeant working the midnight shift) could get home to be with his kids when they woke up to see what Santa had brought them.
Our baby was already up when we woke up his 3-year-old brother.
“Hey Buddy, I think Santa came.”
He sprang from his bed and ran downstairs. Santa had worked his magic, leaving an abundance of toys for both boys. It was a great Christmas...except for me heading out at 4:25 AM to go to work.
I arrived in time to get Gerry home before his kids woke up. The station was pretty quiet with only a few routine calls in the district. I was assigned to cover the desk for the day as the duty supervisor. I soon heard the hallway door open and the voice of Leo Hernandez talking to another cop. Leo had less than a year on the job. He had just taken a larceny report and appeared very upset. I heard him say, “Then as I’m trying to take the report the little boy says to his grandmother, ‘Why does Santa hate me?’”
I was taken back, and waved Leo over to the desk. “What do you got?”
“Sarge, you won’t believe this sh*t. I go to take a larceny report. There is this grandmother who is raising her grandson because her daughter is a bad junkie. The daughter was allowed to come over two days ago to visit the son. The grandson only wanted one thing for Christmas, a Nintendo game system and one game. The grandmother saved up and got it for him. It was the only thing he was getting.”
“Let me guess. The mother stole his presents, right?”
“Worse than that, she took the system out of the box, stuffed the box with old books and then rewrapped it. After she left, the grandmother checked the closet where she had stashed the present because she didn’t trust her. But the gift was rewrapped, so she had no idea. The little boy went to sleep last night and his grandmother put out his gifts. He woke up this morning, jumping for joy when he took off the wrapping paper and saw the box. The poor kid opened up the box and it was filled with old books. He was devastated. As I am taking the report he is wailing, ‘Why does Santa hate me?’ Can you believe a mother could do that to her kid?”
It was probably the first time Leo was shaken by the cruelty we often see on the streets. He was pissed, a tear forming in his eye. “Sarge, you think we can do something for him?”
“Absolutely. What do you have in mind?”
“Can we all throw a couple of bucks in? Maybe we can get him one tomorrow when the stores open?”
“Sounds like a plan. Let's alert the troops.”
Leo requested that the officers on shift stop by and see him at the station when available. I reached out to other districts to see if any of them had any leftover “toys for tots” in their bins. The other duty supervisors scrounged around and found a few gifts they had set aside in the event a family had a fire or other crisis on Christmas.
A few guys swung home, grabbing one of the gifts they had bought for their own kids or grandkids, and contributed them to the cause. The troops came through and filled the donation hat too. One of the cops knew the manager of the local Game Stop and called him at home, some 45 minutes away. After hearing of the little boy, the Game Stop manager offered to drive in and open the store. Another woman, a friend of Jack Watts (the duty supervisor at B-3) came to the station with a bag of toys. She was a bartender and her bar had a stash of toys left over.
By 2:00 PM, Leo and a crew of cops took the wagon back to the little boy’s house. Their arms were laden with all kinds of gifts (brand new Nintendo game system, a dozen games, two hefty bags full of toys, and an envelope with the leftover cash for the grandmother).
They entered the house as the little boy stared at them in amazement. Leo told him, “Santa doesn’t hate you, buddy. That was a mean trick played on you by the Grinch. We found him driving in a stolen sleigh with all your toys. He’s at our jail now and Santa wanted us to bring these back to you.”
My wife was wrong for one of the few times in our marriage. This was exactly the way to spend Christmas.
Merry Christmas and a Happy and Safe New Year to the men and women on the front line.