Thursday, December 22, 2011

a Santa Claus story.


Like most parents, mine told me all about Santa Claus. This jolly man in a red suit lived at the North Pole, and he was watching me all year long to make sure that I was good (creepy, yes, but I didn’t think so at the time). If I was nice to my brother and sister and didn’t complain when I had to do my chores, Santa would come to our house on Christmas Eve and fill my stocking.
Hung by the non-existent chimney with care!
Every Christmas Eve, my parents put on quite a show for us kids. We set out the cookies and milk, and we even threw in a few carrots for the reindeer. We placed our letters to Santa right next to the cookies so we knew he’d find them. Unlike most kids, we didn’t send letters to Santa via postal mail. We knew that Santa was magic (DUH), so he would read our letters when he got to our house, and he’d be able to miraculously conjure up whatever it was that we’d asked for. Only if we were good, of course.
Santa leaves each of us an ornament every year. They are
always totally awesome.
On Christmas morning, we’d scramble down the stairs to see if Santa has been there, and he always had. Our stockings were filled, the cookies were gone, and there were footprints on the carpet. Yes: footprints. We didn’t have a chimney at our house, so Santa obviously came in the front door. He left “magic” footprints on the carpet – they were magic because they were white and powdery like snow, but they didn’t melt.

The best part (besides seeing what was in the stockings) was reading the letters Santa would leave for us. I faithfully wrote Santa letters each year, and each year, Santa would write a little note back to me. He’d always say that he hoped I had a great Christmas and to be sure and be good over the next year. These letters would ultimately be Santa’s undoing.

I started to get a little suspicious of Santa Claus when I was six or so. That Christmas, I had a super-short haircut and glasses, and I thought I looked ridiculous. My friend Sarah had long, glorious hair, and I was so jealous of her. I was also about the only kid in first grade who had to wear glasses. That year, I wrote Santa a letter asking him to make my hair grow long and to give me perfect vision. Since Santa could do anything, I was sure that I would wake up on Christmas morning with 20/20 vision and hair down to my ankles.

On Christmas morning, I was almost scared to open my eyes. Would I be able to see clearly? Did Santa eliminate my need for glasses?? I slowly opened one eye. Still a little fuzzy, but maybe that was because I was just waking up. I opened the other eye. No better. I was starting to get concerned. Well, if Santa didn’t give me good eyes, he HAD to have given me long hair. I got out of bed and looked in the mirror: same old short hair. I was stunned. Santa had failed me.

I ran downstairs to read the letter I knew would be waiting for me. I was anxious to see what excuse Santa would give me for not granting my request. Santa wrote that he really liked my haircut and glasses, and that I was perfect just the way I was. They were very kind words, but stubborn little child that I was, I wasn’t about to let that make me feel better.

The very next Christmas marked the end of Santa Claus for me. I was in second grade, and the thing I wanted more than anything was a Kitty Kitty Kitten. It’s a little stuffed kitten with some kind of marble in its head. The inside of the head is lined with something bumpy, so when you roll the kitten’s head, the marble rattles around and makes a noise like a purring cat. Oh, how I wanted one! My parents didn’t have to fish for information: I made it extremely well known that I would DIE if I didn’t get a Kitty Kitty Kitten for Christmas.
I was SO JEALOUS of that girl.
When I was a kid, we had a specific schedule for our multiple Christmases. On the 23rd, we would have Christmas with just the five of us. Christmas Eve was with my mom’s side of the family, and Christmas Day was spent with my dad’s. If I was going to get a Kitty Kitty Kitten, it would either come on the 23rd or 24th. Why? Because my mom has always been the head-honcho present buyer, and if she and Dad didn’t get it for me, I was counting on my mom telling her mom that I wanted this little stuffed cat. I could hardly wait until Christmas.

Christmas with my immediate family came and went. I got some completely awesome stuff, don’t get me wrong: this may have been the year of Veterinarian Barbie. 
Sweet pants.
Same thing happened on Christmas Eve: great presents, but no Kitty Kitty Kitten. I was getting nervous. At this point, Santa was my last hope.

Sure enough, he did. On Christmas morning, what did I find peeking out of my stocking but the face of a little stuffed calico kitten! I was delighted. The kitten purred when I shook it, and it was so very very soft. Happy and full of Christmas spirit, I opened up the letter Santa had left me. As soon as my eyes hit the page, I froze: THE LETTER WAS IN MY MOM’S HANDWRITING.

All of the sudden, it hit me. Santa was my parents. My parents were Santa. Of course! How else would Santa know exactly what it was that we wanted, and how on earth would he have known if we were naughty or nice? That explained how Santa managed to make it to every house in the world in one single night: every house had its very own Santa! I had wondered for the longest time why Santa would leave ALL the presents under the tree at some of my friends’ houses, but at others (like mine) Santa’s jurisdiction was the stockings. It all made perfect sense.

Other little events over the years immediately began to add up. Mom (as I found out) was in charge of all the stockings except her own. That was Dad’s job: one that he shirked on occasion. One morning, we awoke to find all of the stockings bulging with goodies… except for Mom’s. Dad, realizing what had happened, quickly covered his mistake. “Santa told me to keep your present cold,” he said, strolling to the fridge and handing my mother a Dr Pepper. I’m pretty sure Dad got rocks in his stocking the next year.

My parents really had done an excellent job with Santa Claus. I later found out that the “magic” footprints were created by taking one of my dad’s work boots and dipping the sole in powdered sugar. The letters from Santa Claus were written by my dad, whose handwriting is pretty standard. My mom, on the other hand, has extremely recognizable handwriting, so when she was the one to write back to me, Santa’s cover was blown.

I was only seven years old at the time, and I briefly considered busting my parents right then and there. But then I stopped and thought about how much fun I had believing in Santa Claus and what a thrill it was to go to bed and have faith in the crazy idea that a bearded man in a red suit was going to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t spoil that for my sister and brother, who were four and almost two and wouldn’t believe me anyway. Honestly, I didn’t want to spoil it for my parents, either. They must’ve really enjoyed it if they went so far to create bootprints with powdered sugar.

So I kept my mouth shut. I rejoiced in the generosity of Santa Claus along with my siblings, and we had yet another wonderful Christmas.
This is what that Kitty Kitty Kitten
looks like today (17 years later).
That kitten got LOTS of love!
I didn’t figure out how to tell my parents that I knew their secret until I lost my next tooth. Those puzzle pieces came together, too: my parents were also the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. Of course. That night, I left my tooth under my pillow: business as usual. But this time, I left a little note: “Hi Mom. Thanks for the money.”

The next day, Mom sat me down and tried to save the fantasy, saying that the Tooth Fairy “told” her that I thought she (the Tooth Fairy) wasn’t real. I looked her square in the eye and said, “Mom. It’s ok. The letter from Santa Claus was in your handwriting.” She realized the jig was up. I assured her that I had no intention of telling Darrah and Mitch, so keep it up with the powdered sugar footprints.

Several years later, when I was old enough to still have some money left over from my summer job, I decided to take over filling Mom’s stocking. I wanted Mom to get more in her stocking than the occasional can of Dr Pepper, so it was my turn to step up to the plate as Santa Claus.

I kept my mouth shut about it for a couple of years: Mom and Dad knew, of course, but Darrah and Mitch assumed that Santa had just gotten better at filling Mom’s stocking. When I was sixteen, I took my siblings Christmas shopping. Darrah was thirteen and Mitch was about to turn eleven, so I figured I was safe when I said, “Let me know if you see anything good for Mom’s stocking.” To this day, I still don’t know if Darrah was being serious when she said, “YOU fill Mom’s stocking?!” I confirmed that I did, suddenly wondering if I had ruined Darrah’s childhood. “But,” she said incredulously, “what about the footprints?” I stuttered out something about the footprints being magic, hoping that I didn’t screw everything up. Maybe she was just trying to put on a show for Mitch, who was totally unfazed by all of it. (I asked him later that night what he thought about Santa, and Mitch confirmed that he knew it was Mom and Dad.) I’m assuming that Darrah knew as well, but all the same, I REALLY hope I wasn’t the one to wreck it for her.

So that’s how I found out about Santa Claus. I wasn’t at all disappointed: I felt like I had been let in on some secret club. If (God forbid) I ever have children, you can bet that I’ll be filling their stockings and making magic footprints out of powdered sugar. I’ll probably make a few changes to Mom and Dad’s method, though. I’m pretty sure "Santa" would rather have a glass of wine waiting for him than milk and cookies, but that’s just me.

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