“I asked Santa to bring me a chemistry set this year,” I told my third-grade best friend at Hilltop Elementary School in rural Colerain, Ohio, a few weeks before Christmas 1966.
He, the suave-beyond-his-8-years buddy who lived over the hill from me on Sharon Road, flashed a quizzical look but remained silent.
“What, you think I’m too little for a chemistry set, don’t you?” retorted I, who also fancied Superman and Davy Crockett outfits that year and more than a few new Matchbox cars.
“No, I want one, too,” he said, confessing his equal admiration for the Skil Craft set (but only in the trifold metal case, mind you) that I had found in a catalog. His voice trailed off as he measured carefully in his young mind what his developing reason would force him to blurt out next:
“You don’t still believe in Santa Claus, do you?” he asked, getting to the nub of the rub, throwing the niceties of the season (if not my very belief foundation) out the window of the classroom, freshly decorated with paper chains, their links made of alternating green and red construction paper.
“Of course I do,” I shot back, with just enough lack of conviction to give me wiggle room if — somehow, some way, O Holy Night — he happened to be right.
“So, who do you think brings all those presents?” I asked, in a tone that was a combination of bluff-calling and…