Ever since I was old enough to know better, I lived inside a fantasy world.
There was the time my dad took me to a Red Sox game and I got to see Ted Williams belt a homer at Fenway Park.
Why couldn’t I grow up to be like the Splendid Splinter? He must have started out like me — a lad with perceptive vision, high hopes and a compelling work ethic. That mirage petered out when the only flies I was chasing in the outfield were the real ones.
Then came the astronaut phase. With all this business about landing on the moon and exploring outer space, I wanted to grow up and become a space traveler like Alan Shepard.
I never got the chance to go above ground until my very first flight as a married man. The movie star I had envisioned never came to pass, nor did my urge to become a scientist. The chemist in me blew up a lab one day in high school and detonated a new pursuit.
So I became a journalist — and a Santa Claus! Yes, everything I had hoped to be was loosely woven inside a red suit and black boots. Nothing that a little padding and big stomach couldn’t remedy.
The role found me quite by accident. I was covering the sports beat for this paper when the editor approached my desk with a stack of letters in hand.
“You’re going to be the Gazette Santa this season,” he urged. “The way it works around here is that everyone takes a turn. Use the letters and let’s crank out a daily plea to our readers for support.”
“But I’m covering basketball,” I retorted, hoping to weasel out of the assignment.
“Maybe if you do a good job, Santa will bring the Hillies a winning season,” he shot back. “Maybe you may grow to like it.”