This story has wound up on more than one refrigerator door over the years.

It’s the story of a little boy who, 21 years ago, wanted to know if Santa was real.

The boy’s name is Sam, he still lives in Chicago, and he was 8 years old when he popped the question to his father.

Sam’s dad, an outrageously funny raconteur and Chicago journalist named Steve Crews — who periodically appeared in a “Cheap Eats” column under the moniker “The Highland Park Swell” — had an answer to the question.

It came in the form of a letter — a missive from a father who wanted to make Sam’s transition from Santaland to Earth as painless as possible.

I reprinted the letter several times, the last time in 2006.

What I didn’t know then was Sam’s reaction to his dad’s letter.

But I do now.


You see, Steve, my old friend, died recently.

So let’s begin with Steve’s letter I’ve titled: “Sam I Am.”

It is followed by Sam’s response.

“Dear Sam,

“Your dad stayed up last night to tell me that you now know as much about me as I do about you.

“Well, good.

“I’m glad you asked. And don’t worry, no child ever really leaves me. Ask your mom. Ask your dad.

“They know I don’t live in the North Pole (too cold). They know I don’t ride in a sleigh (too dangerous). Still, they love me, and so will you, even 50 years from now.

“Oh, and what do you think happened last night just as you were asking about me?

“Why, a baby was born out in Kalispell, Mont.

“That’s right, just as you were putting aside your belief, a brand-new child was born who can put it to good use.

“So long as that keeps happening, I’ll never be out of a job.

“Sam, I want to wish you a wonderful life. If you don’t mind, I will continue to drop by on future Christmases, just to make sure you’re OK.

“Love, Santa

“P.S. Remember, you don’t have to believe in me to know I am there.”

Here’s Sam’s response:

“I was eight years old and remember going into dad’s bedroom the night before Christmas and discovering Santa’s Christmas note — written in dad’s handwriting.

“In our family, there was always a note from Santa left on the table by the Christmas tree on Christmas morning.

“So I asked Dad if Santa was real.

“Dad paused and then he said: ‘Do you mean physically?’

“So I guess that answered that, so I went to bed.

“In the morning, I found a note on the table next to the tree like always. But it was a beautiful letter.

“I cried. Even then I knew it was special.

“My interpretation then, I believe, was basically my father was Santa. But it was in a way a kind of goodbye letter.

“Now I can understand that just because there is no Santa doesn’t mean there is no magic. And just because it was magic created by my parents, didn’t make it any less special.

“We talked about the letter every year you published it.

“Dad was proud of that letter and I think he felt the Santa letter had redeemed him because he felt he hadn’t done a good job on Christmas Eve explaining Santa’s existence to me.

“I still remember every word in that letter, but mostly I remembered his reference to the baby born in Kalispell, Montana. Where did he come up with that?

“It was just so Dad.

“I’m now 29 and someone who wants to have kids. I’ll admit I don’t know how a parent deals with the Santa story without kids feeling it’s the ultimate betrayal.

“But you know what, Dad was all about creating magic for his kids. My sister, Meredith, and me. That was my Dad. A magic maker.

“That’s what Dad was all about.”

Yes, Sam.

Your father was magic.

Sneedlings . . .

I spy: President Barack Obama’s senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, spotted Tuesday night with her mother, friends and four Secret Service members at Gene & Georgetti  . . . CBS senior White House correspondent Bill Plante at Tortoise Supper Club for lunch Tuesday . . . Cubs World Series MVP Ben Zobrist, spotted chowing down on sushi Monday night at Roka Akor with wife Julianna  . . . Saturday’s birthdays: Ricky Martin, 45; Ryan Seacrest, 42; and Kate Spade, 54 . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Jimmy Buffett, 70; Emma Slater, 28; and Justin Trudeau, 45.