The Santa Man

Writing "The Santa Man", an online Christmas story for Harlequin, was easy.

I never use the words "easy" and "writing" in the same sentence, so this is a very big first!  When Victoria asked me to write a Christmas story set in Willing, Montana, home of my "Willing to Wed" series, I knew exactly who the hero would be.  I knew what he would be doing on Christmas Eve.  It took much longer to find the right heroine for my flawed, overlooked EMT volunteer and Army veteran.  But the story?  Oh, that was the easy part (can you believe it?  I used the word "easy" again!).

So let me tell you a story...

When my oldest three children were five, seven and twelve, I wanted them to understand that it was important to help Santa give presents to the boys and girls who weren't going to have gifts under the tree.  I bought toys to donate to the local version of "Toys For Tots", we delivered them to a drop off center and drove home in snowy darkness.  My children weren't the least bit impressed.  A week later, when I was having coffee with friends, I told the story of the toys and how I'd failed trying to teach my children the true meaning of Christmas.

My dear friend Omar, who was a deputy sheriff at the time (in a north Idaho county bigger than the state of Rhode Island) set down his coffee mug and told me how a few days before he'd accompanied another deputy delivering toys and food to the needy families.

"Kristine," he said, his voice choked.  "You wouldn't believe the places I saw.  You'd never know these houses were there.  I'll never forget it.  You have to know," he insisted, blinking back tears.  "You have to know those toys you bought really mattered."

After that I never forgot to donate toys, whether my children were with me or not, whether it was a chance to educate them or not.

Fast forward seventeen years.  We have six children, not three.  The oldest is in college.  The youngest, a girl, is in second grade.  There is a new son, who is eight.

When you adopt older children, their stories trickle out slowly.  Sometimes it takes months, even years, to discover their lives "Before I Was Adopted".

"Before I was adopted," my eight year old son told me one day shortly before his second Christmas with us, "I didn't get any Christmas presents.  'Cept one time.  A Match Box car.  It was really cool.  Black.  It went really fast."

"Who gave it to you?"

He shrugged.  "I dunno.  We went somewhere and we all got a toy.  Then J---
got mad and threw it out the window.  I really cried."

"I'll bet you did."  We were baking cookies and I kept my voice as casual as I could.

"I went outside and looked for it but it got dark and I couldn't find it."

Can you picture a three year old boy out in the dark, looking for a little car his drugged out father tossed from a third story window?  The only present this child would have?

And that's why it was easy to write "The Santa Man" and cast Horatio Porterman (known as "Hip") in the leading role.  Because surely a man who delivers gifts and food to poor families at Christmas is a hero, even if he doesn't think of himself as a hero at all.

Just like my dear friend Omar.  And just like my son, who grew up to be a proud Army sergeant and served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who continues to distinguish himself in so many ways.

He's actually coming home for Christmas this year!  He has his own fancy black car now, a BMW with all the bells and whistles.  The real thing.

But I think about that little boy's story every year when I buy sets of Match Box cars. And Tonka trucks.  Barbies.  Games.  Legos.  And more Match Box cars.  I love hauling them to whatever store is acting as a drop off center.  I try not to cry until I get back in my car.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, with love and joy and good memories.  And please know that all of those toys you donated to charity surely will mean a great deal to the children who are lucky enough to receive them.


  1. Oh my gosh, you made me cry! What a lovely post. Thanks and hugs to your son and Merry Christmas to all of you.

  2. Wow. That was so touching, Kristine. I'm shopping today and will definitely buy toys for giveaways. God bless you and your family for adopting that boy and giving him a good life -- and presents.

  3. Beautiful story, Kristine!! My family chooses three kids every year to buy Christmas presents for at church. The kids each pick out a boy or girl their age and with similar interests based on the child's wishlist. They go out with me and help pick something out that their sure the child will like. I have had to explain to them that not everyone is as fortunate as they are to have piles of presents under the Christmas tree and now it is their mission to make sure we get everything on the boy or girl's list. I love that they have that giving spirit and not just the "gimme" mentality that sometimes runs rampant this season. My daughter has said she wishes she could see the kids open the presents on Christmas - I will share your story so she gets an idea!

    I am also reading Santa Man on eharlequin - it's great! I just wish I could read it all at once, this chapter a day is going to kill me. I love Hip ;)

  4. Kristine, what a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing, and I'm so glad your son has you--and his own fast, black car now!

  5. When my girls were young, we took them to the toy store to pick out gifts for charities. They loved it! Never once did they whine because they weren't getting anything, instead they got into the true spirit of the season. They always made me so proud.

    Can't wait to read Santa Man. I love your Willing to Wed series.

  6. Since my grandchildren moved to this area about 5 years ago, we've been going to the Angel Tree at Christmas time, picking out names and buying gifts. This was the first year the girls brought up the subject and asked when they could do it. They take it very seriously, check out the different requests, and try to find the perfect gift. When given the opportunity, children have a very generous spirit.

  7. Kristine, lovely story of your adopted son. I started young as a "giver" because my mother took Christmas baskets to families less fortunate. My children and now my grand children carry on the tradition that, like you said, is so much in need. Love your Santa Man. We need more like him.

  8. Kristine - congratulations on your Christmas story, your son, and your giving spirit! How wonderful that the sadly treated little boy got another life as your child and has gone on to make his own impression on the world - and to get his car! I wish you all the blessings of Christmas! And everyone else out there, too!

  9. You have a heart of gold, Kristine. Thank you for sharing such a moving post.

  10. Kristine-I am a sobbing mess right now lol:) But thank you for such a beautiful post! xo

  11. What a wonderful post. The Angel Tree is such a great thing. So glad your son came home safely to enjoy that black Beemer. You must be so proud of him.

  12. Beautiful story. I know you are so proud of him.

  13. Oh, no! I didn't intend to make anyone cry! Thank you for the kind comments. I should have told the story of the Christmas morning when "Sarge" pulled on his sweatpants and a chipmunk ran down his leg. Six children running around the house chasing a chipmunk before we opened that was a holiday to remember! P.S. Tough Army Guy with the fancy car is getting a crock pot--and a lesson from his mother on how to use it--for Christmas. You all know how I feel about that wonderful appliance. Merry Christmas, everyone!


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