(T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)
Did I say nothing can travel faster than light?
"Well, almost nothing," laughs the jolly fellow seated behind his desk in front of me.
Santa Claus travels to untold billions of households in a single night, a feat which doesn't seem possible under our conventional understanding of the universe.
How does he do it?
My question causes him to laugh, and as his mouth turns up into a smile, and his rosy cheeks get just a little rosier, his eyes twinkle just a bit.
"It's Christmas," he says. "The rules are a little different for Christmas."
In the twinkling of those jolly eyes, presents will be left under the trees of good children in many different lands.
And even though you hear about the "naughty list," Santa seems to be able to find something good in just about every child who writes him.
"Christmas is about finding good things in unexpected places," Santa said. "A baby, born to poor parents in a place where livestock are fed, turns out to be the savior of the universe.
"Christmas can bring out the good in all of us, as well. Christmas isn't about theology, or terminology, or politics, or the exact wording you use to greet someone. Christmas is about having love in your heart, about being grateful for all that God has given you, and about sharing that love with others. I love that Thanksgiving comes right before the Christmas season, because if you're truly thankful for what you have, you realize how important it is to share with others.
"I hear people tell me that times are hard, and I suppose they are. But we have each other, and God loves us, even through the hard times, and that's the greatest gift of all. That love is something we can share with each other, not only at Christmas but going into the new year."
He leans back in his chair and smiles.
"But I'm trying, very, very hard, to make sure that all the boys and girls get a few toys under the tree as well."
Below us, on Santa's workshop floor, elves are busily and efficiently assembling everything from baby dolls to video game systems.
As always during our visits, Santa tells me to tell the children of Bedford County to get to bed as soon as their parents suggest.
"I have to move so quickly, I really need everyone to be out of the way," he explained, matter-of-factly. His incredible day of travel is draining, and so he expressed appreciation for all of the little treats, such as milk and cookies, left for him by the children.
"Make sure they know that I love them," Santa said. "And tell them I want them to have a merry Christmas!"
--City editor John I. Carney has interviewed Santa Claus for the Times-Gazette annually since the mid-1980s.