For anyone who still believes in Santa Claus, stop reading now.
If you’re still reading and still believe, don’t say I didn’t warn you. At school, I was probably in the second grade when a fourth-grader told me during Christmas pageant rehearsal that it was the parents providing the Christmas gifts; not a jolly old elf. I was instantly indignant, but this theory made perfect sense, as the box for my Tonka car carrier had been left on the back porch when I walked outside on Christmas morning when I was five. Faced with evidence dispelling the St. Nicholas myths, I rationalized that Santa shopped. Elves only made the handmade toys. I’d spoken with Santa when I’d seen him roaming the mall, so I knew he shopped.
Eventually I had to face facts, but at home I couldn’t let the family find out that I knew the truth. For one thing, I thought my holiday haul would shrink by half, and as a very materialistic person, I couldn’t take that risk. On Christmas Eve, the four of us would have dinner and open gifts under the tree. Those gifts were from our parents and had been stashed in various places before Mother closed her bedroom door one afternoon and wrapped everything up. This round of gifts tended to be on the practical side: clothes, rain gear, pajamas and the aforementioned toaster I wrote about last year.
When they were ready to get on with the evening and set things up for Christmas morning, my parents would start talking about Santa flying over. It’s time to get to bed. Sleeping was difficult, and I was up before daylight. I’d creep into the darkened living room where I’d see toys all over the place. These gifts, unwrapped and seemingly materialized from the ether, were from Santa. It had to be Santa. I’d put out a plate of cookies, and he’d eaten them. He also left letters for my sister and me.
Hers was in cursive and mine, he’d considerately printed. They were long and contained enough references to our actions throughout the year to let us know that Santa was always watching. I had very bad eating habits as a kid, and one year Santa provided so much detail about my breakfasts that I thought he had ties to J. Edgar Hoover. (Yes, I’m dating myself!) How else could he know about the pea salad debacle?
Actually, I remember the letters with fondness. They were like performance reviews at a job. I was provided with a summary of activities, my accomplishments were praised, and I was given areas where I could make vast improvements after being reminded of what hadn’t gone particularly well since the previous Christmas. There were numerous areas where I could do better. Making beds, being more cooperative, doing chores without reminders; the detail was incredible. That Santa kept dossiers on millions of children astounded me, yet I never discussed these letters with cousins or classmates. I naturally assumed everyone received such letters, but I often wonder how I would’ve confronted the author if I’d learned back then that I was the only kid in my school receiving such a document.
The annual letters from Santa were great parenting tools, which I felt I could do without. Why spoil an otherwise perfect day of acquisition with a written assessment of my numerous shortcomings? Such indictments proved that Santa, if he existed, was in cahoots with my parents. I had the feeling I’d barely stayed off his naughty list. If anything had saved me, it had been my good manners with people outside our home. When I finally admitted the truth to myself about Santa, I kept such realizations quiet lest I risk the loss of the Christmas morning booty. And I said nothing about the annual letters even though I now realized the Kringle missives had a distinctive arc that could only be produced by my mother’s distinctive penmanship.
As I recall, that final letter was filled with strong admonishments. It was time to mature; not that I was 28 and still pretending to believe in Santa. I had to officially give up believing because if there were ever one absurd notion more unbelievable than a man in a red suit flying on a sleigh with a team of levitating caribou, delivering toys round the world in a single night, it would’ve been a cynical child as I still subscribing to such naïveté.
I knew to get out while I still could. If I’d dared carry out my charade one more year, it’s entirely possible someone would have gotten me professional help, and I certainly didn’t need to wrestle that tiger!
© 2015 by Patrick Brown
Visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1 to learn about my books “Moral Ambiguity” and “Tossed Off the Edge.”