For those of you who know me, and those who don’t but read loafe and bother to remember the dumb shit I talk about, you will know that I have been anti-Santa for all of ry’s short little life. I like the “character” of santa and I have nothing personal against the imaginary fellow, but I just felt a weirdness about pretending there was this guy who, once a year, gave presents to kids all over the world for no real reason. I made the parental decision that I wasn’t going to actively participate in the santa claus myth. I wanted no part of it. if it ruined his childhood, so be it.
I was fine with ry knowing and talking about santa in a fictional way, as a character of the season, much like rudolph and frosty. It won’t surprise you how smug and proud I felt about the whole thing: “look at me and how cool I am, with my no santa claus-ness, ry doesn’t even know how lucky he is to have me for a mom.”
But then something happened. santa came down from heaven and … well, okay. nothing really happened. I was sitting at work last week, my mind wandering, and I started to remember what it was like when I was a kid, when I really truly believed in santa. it was so seductive, so entrancing, so mysterious. it sounds cheesy and cliche, but there is no other word for it: believing in santa was magical. absolutely without a doubt.
you thought that one special night a year, when it was cold and dark, this funny fat old man who loved kids would fly his way to your house, sneak in, and leave you presents. he would eat the cookies you left out and he would give his reindeer their treats. You knew in some corner of your brain that he went to all the kids’ houses, but he was especially fond of your house, of you. he loved you the most, you were his favorite.
so off you’d go to bed, full of nervousness and excitement, scared and thrilled, thinking you’d never fall asleep. but then you did, sleep always came. In the morning, you’d wake up and realize “it’s christmas oohh it’s christmas it’s finally christmas” and in that sleepy dreamy daze you’d crawl out of bed. you wouldn’t run pell mell downstairs, no. what if he was still down there!? he couldn’t see you. you couldn’t see him. that would ruin it all! but what if he was still down there? you had to see him, you just had to. so you’d take your time, creeping down the hall, down the steps, peeking your head around the corner, slowly slowly, your breath frozen in your lungs.
you’d see the christmas tree glowing in the still-dark morning, and he was gone of course, but only just barely. his shadow was still there. and you could smell him, you could smell santa and you could smell his reindeer, you knew you had just missed him. in relief and sadness you sat there, staring at the tree, feeling his warmth, breathing in deep so you’d get all of that smell in you. you wouldn’t even look at your presents yet, the presents didn’t matter; santa was just here! everyone else was still asleep, mom and dad and all your sisters, and you had that moment alone, with the tree and the lights and the heavy sweet air santa had left behind. he’d eaten most of the cookies, with a little bit of one left over. you’d run your finger over the plate, the crumbs, see the empty glass of milk, shivering with the immensity of it. maybe you’d fall asleep there, on the couch, waiting for everyone else to wake up. or maybe you’d make your way back to bed and wait till the sun found your house.
either way, santa had come, and it was the greatest feeling in the world.
How can I take that away from ry? How can I deprive him of something that meant so much to me? I remember the taste of bitterness when I learned Santa wasn’t real. I found the Snoopy thumb tacks in my parent’s closet one day. I had been snooping (ironic, eh?). I found them and I wondered about them. I put them back and waited to see what happened. Then, christmas morning, Santa brought me Snoopy thumb tacks. and it was over. just like that. a punch in the stomach. even though I kind of already knew. That’s why I had been snooping.
I didn’t want to do the santa thing with ry because I didn’t want to make it all about presents. about getting stuff. but for me, it was never like that. yes sure I liked the stuff the next day, but what I remember now, in my old age, isn’t what santa brought me, just that he existed. you know? and I didn’t want to do the santa thing with ry because I didn’t want him to have that day when he found out the truth. it’s a rough day. but we all go through it and even the roughness of that day is no match for the magic of belief.
So I’m going to participate in the santa myth and hope that my kid gets the same kind of memory from it that I did, that the magic stays with him, that he doesn’t hate me when he finds out I lied to him, that he doesn’t turn into some crazed consumer, always wanting needing expecting.
this parenting stuff is a tricky business indeed.
- ducking and honking