“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening, In the lane, snow is glistening – A beautiful sight…”I love Christmas even in the harshest of times – I've weathered many – as the thought of “The Grinch” steals my heart and romances me with other tales of the season and lends me purpose.
My most memorable Christmas was when my mom had asked me to wrap presents for her friend, Annie's, children. I was in 2nd grade. This wasn’t a chore - it was like being in art class with no teacher around! After the third present I realized Annie’s daughter's gifts mimicked what I had asked for at Christmas. Then another box I knew a brother had requested and I realized I was wrapping our own Christmas presents.
Confused, I felt let down and then the thought occurred that maybe I was being given a job that only Santa knew about - or my mom – and I kept wrapping boxes - never to reveal a word to my siblings. For now anyway.
It was Christmas Eve - which was always our time to celebrate and my dad always took us for a drive in his car. I never got that part, I just knew that this time I wasn’t going because Mr. Claus and I had a mutual job in common and I wanted to talk to him. This was completely different than the mall Santa who got mad at me for telling him he had a fake beard. He even told me to get off of his lap and that I wasn’t getting candy (my younger brothers sneaked it for me) and to not ever come back, that I was a rotten little kid for telling him I could see his real hair behind the fake. I didn't mind, he was a poser.
I knew there was a secret out there and no one was telling me the truth. I wanted it from the fat man himself.
I heard my mom calling out my name several times and didn’t budge. Securely hidden behind a huge, old lazy chair - I was content staying in for the milk and cookies. My brother swore he saw Santa in the sky the year before but that was daylight and he was younger and it was the only time we ever celebrated the holiday during the day – so that didn’t count. I wanted to be the first to discover the real deal. My mom’s voice got louder and madder, turning into a screech with an accent. The woman who made us hot chocolate pudding for dinner and said it “vas hellsie because it had eggs and milk in it for protein!” - with Vanilla wafers.
When I heard her get onto the chair - I tried to go invisible – scrunching my eyes and curling into a ball. No luck. She saw me and started in on me to get out from behind ‘zee chair now or I’ll call your father over!’ I begged and pleaded, explaining all I wanted to do was to meet Santa and tell him I helped him this year by wrapping presents. Mom’s finger went to her lips…”SHHHHHH!”
I slinked out of the living room where our lopsided tree with angel hair and larger ornaments with tinsel stood and glanced back – longingly. My mother’s stare told me to go.
Off we went - four kids with my dad - who years later I realized had a few too many beers in him that night. He drove us around for a long time, probably five minutes. It felt like an hour had passed before he parked the car outside a phone booth on an incline. Dad jumped out and headed to a nearby phone booth while my three brothers and I were arguing over who he was going to call - when the car started to slide backwards. I screamed first, my two younger brothers joined me as my older brother did something I never saw him do. A kind and redeemable act. He pushed on the brakes and honked the horn which brought our frantic dad racing back to us. He was yelling about us playing with the car but in hindsight? I believe my dad was terrified he could’ve gotten us all hurt that night.
We returned and the presents I had wrapped were there. I faked not knowing what was under the bad wrapping job.
My chance to meet Santa was gone for and yet another year. Yes, I found out that people said he didn’t exist too and chose to never believe them.
came into our apartment in first grade and announced the kids at school had informed him that there was no Santa Claus while his enormous eyes looked up at me- blinking ever so fearfully. Soulfully searching my face Dylan asked, “So…is there a Santa Claus or not, mommy? You said yes and the kids said he's a fake, and I’m a liar.”
There’s an old saying, ‘act as if’ when faced with adversity - or my favorite, MSU – make sh** up - if it means not destroying a beautiful outlook on life.
By now my kid is fidgeting and asking me again so I say, “Well, there are two kinds of Santa Claus’ and you get to be one of them!” Dylan’s eyes flew open and he grinned with anticipation. “There’s the Santa on TV and then there’s the ones in the malls, parking lots and you see them all over, right?” Dylan nodded. “Then there’s what Santa really is that nobody knows and you cannot tell the kids at school or their parents might get mad at mommy.” “I promise hope to die, mommy!” he giggled with anticipation. “Well, Dylan, you can be Santa any time you want. It’s the spirit of giving year-round and no one needs to know. Santa’s real job is teaching people to be helpful to another but you can do that any time.” Dylan bounced off the sofa and hugged my legs tight while I was standing. “Thanks mommy!” He squealed as he bounded out of the room with delight armored with cool new info only he had.
This Christmas, like the last is filled with walking in , eeking by, not knowing what is coming next but I do believe in Santa – I’ve owned the sweatshirt longer than my son is on this earth – and must continue to believe that Dylan will get his needs met for his art school that is beyond our reach financially and that I will get a job to keep our roof over our heads. We have each other as family and a dead tree I drag out and decorate with him every year. Most people think it’s live until they realize there’s no smell. Shhh…I love the illusion because the joy on the faces who see it – is very real. Then there’s a little project we did as family that is our present to one another, “” that will be the best gift Dylan can give to his own children one day. He’ll probably start off with, “Your Nana was different…”
Later on, we'll conspire,
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid,
The plans that we've made,
Walking in a winter wonderland.