Now that I’m a parent and the innocence of childhood has left me like last night’s “taco surprise” dinner, I find myself wondering about the tradition that is Santa Claus. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Christmas. Love pretty much everything about it—the traditions, the smells, the sights. I don’t even care that it’s reached a stage of commercialism that’s made the Hilton sisters seem like minimalists.
But Santa Claus. As the kids say: WTF?
Three hundred and sixty four days of the year we put the fear of God into our young ones about not talking to strangers, not accepting candy or gifts from strangers, and not to ever open the door and let one into your house without the presence and permission of a parent. Yet Christmas is a time where we celebrate the intrusion of one such stranger: a jolly fat man in a red jump suit, who comes with the promise of toys and candy. And not even through the front door, which–if he’s truly welcome–would make the most sense. Nope, he’s going to slide down the chimney while you sleep, and this after watching you for a year’s time–when you’re sleeping…when you’re awake…when you’ve been bad…
I’ve also often wondered how, if Santa carries around enough coal for all the bad kids, how does he keep his gloves and beard so snowy white?
And where does he leave these presents, the children ask? Under the carcass of a tree you’ve erected in your living room meant as a kind of totem representing joy and love and peace, that’s been ordained in lights and glass balls and candy canes and bells, made visible through your living room window as a warning to all the other trees to stop discarding their God-forsaken pine needles into your gutters.
In spite of all this, however, I won’t stop with these traditions. I love these traditions, but I’m fairly certain it’s yet another way that I’m setting my kids up for permanent scarring. I’m making a game out of it: when I hit fifty ways, I treat myself to a chocolate bar.
Honestly, though, I lurve Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday of all, which is absurd because it’s the most stressful, busiest, most expensive, coldest of holidays, and drives the kiddies to a mental state of a Minion on methamphetamines.
The meeting of Santa Claus is what it’s all about, though. I’m not talking about mall Santa, where they charge you a kidney and the soul of your first born in exchange for a photo. We don’t waste our time with those. We visit the Santa Claus at a quaint tree nursery in a small, rural town. The dynamics of the interchange is fascinating. My oldest, who’s five and already well-versed in the art of filibustering, went first. He climbed up on Santa’s lap without hesitation and laid out the details of the two presents he wanted most, what each button of the toys did, the backstory of one of them–a crime-fighting vessel of sorts–and which local stores featured current deals on the product. He even offered a third option in the case that these toys were too expensive.
Santa, not understanding any of this, gasped and said, “Well, that is a lot to ask for—have you really been that good?”
My heart sunk. I knew even before the words escaped his beard-covered lips the mistake he had made.
My oldest started with a deep breath—this is always a bad sign—and continued in elaborate detail the events of the past week where he had been particularly good, and then the one event he could recall where he was not-so-good.
Santa, still not really understanding anything he said like his parents who’d had become well-verse in five-year-old slur, smiled and said, “I’ll have to check my list.”
This interchange took precisely eleven minutes and forty-seven seconds, just long enough for the eighteen-month-old to lose all interest and want to hone in on as many expensive glassware in the store that he could.
My middle child was next in line. His interaction with Santa lasted precisely eleven-point-forty-seven seconds, with his shoulders sunk forward and his eyes directed at his own shoes.
“Do you want to sit on Santa’s lap, little boy?”
Silence. Not even a squeak. My son was playing dead.
The youngest didn’t even last that long before releasing the strident tears meant to alarm passersby of the impending horror upon him–a creature so foul that it must have been sent to this earth by the Dukes of Hell, and hell-bent on removing his brains with a metal funnel and rubber tubing only to insert its own dark conscience into the body with the purpose of walking the earth as an imposter.
So I really have no idea what an eighteen-month-old’s imagination is capable of, so I improved.
Christmas is a strange holiday. Really, it’s bat-turd bizarre, but it’s also fantastic and so I’d like to wish each and every one of you a truly merry day of decorating dead trees and inviting fat men in red jump suits to break and enter your cozy abode.
Or, if you don’t celebrate the holiday, have a great Sunday.