>2nd post for Carl’s G.I.F.T. Challenge….
One year when my son was about six years old, Christmas looked bleak, at least from a gift-giving perspective due to the thinness of my wallet. Say anything you want regarding the ‘true meaning of Christmas’, but few or no packages under the tree means nothing but disappointment for a child.
I had been ambivalent about the idea of Santa Claus, but my son’s father was adamant about not misleading children about some jolly old man bringing ‘good’ kids presents. So, there were never presents labeled from Santa under my tree, although there were plenty without any tags at all. A bit of a compromise, but one that I stood by, even when my son’s dad was no longer a member of our household. Over time, although I never said anything about Santa, B. began to believe in Santa. I realized how pervasive this idea of Christmas is in our culture. Wondering how non-Christian children in America must feel — that Santa is not only for “good” kids, but only for “good Christian” kids — really annoyed me and so I continued with the no Santa rule in my house.
One day B. approached me tearfully. He told me that he really wanted Santa to come and bring him gifts and he had even written a letter, but his dad had told him that Santa was “just some old guy working at the mall in a cheap costume and ski hat”. B. was crushed! I realized how important the idea of Santa was to him. I was in a pickle. I told my mother about the conversation. I soon realized that was not my wisest move.
Quicker than you could say “Rudolph, the red-nosed”, she had sprung into action. She contacted a neighbor who had played Santa at a “Breakfast with Santa” event at her church the previous week — an event which I had declined to attend. “He’s such a good Santa”, she said. “And, it isn’t a cheap costume! Come over here tomorrow for dinner and he’ll stop by.”
I knew there would be little peace if I didn’t go along with her idea, and I was saddened by my little inconsolable boy with his heart crushed by discovering that the Santa I had never said existed, in fact, didn’t. So to the other side of town we went the following evening.
Around 8pm, there was a heavy knock on the back door. Before we could answer it, in strolled the best costumed Santa I’d ever seen. My mother’s friend, J., was unrecognizable. White hair, realistic beard, ruddy checks, heavy black boots, black workmen’s gloves — the kind you’d need to hold reindeer reins.
“I heard that B. was here. Where is he?” Santa laughed in a friendly way. But my son was no where in sight. Frightened, he had jumped behind the sofa. I don’t know what he thought at first. That some itinerant mall worker had broken into G-Ma’s house? That his father was so wrong? That Santa really existed and missed him at the Breakfast the previous week?
It took a few minutes, but B. finally emerged from behind the cushions, trembling, walked up to Santa and pinched him, confirming that he was, in fact, quite pinchable and real. Santa asked B. what he wanted for Christmas.
“Roller blades” he said. “For me and for my mommy. And books.”
“Well,” Santa said, “if your Grandmother and your teacher Mrs. H. report to me that you’ve been good, those gifts will be under your tree on Christmas morning.”
“Rollerblades. For me and my mommy.”
“My reindeer are ready to leave. I have to go. They spook real easy, so you can’t go outside until you count to 100.” With that, he left out the back door. After the quickest counting to 100 he had done to date, B. rushed to the back door, trying to push past his grandfather to get to the outside door. Somehow, J. had managed to get around the corner of the house, through the neighbors’ yards and to his house before B. saw him. B. of course wasn’t thinking about looking at the lawn; he was focused on the roofline and the sky beyond.
“Look” he said, “a piece of the reindeer’s harness”, pointing to a roof clamp that had been left by the roofing crew earlier in the day. “I hope the sleigh is safe.”
“I can’t wait to get my rollerblades!”
One problem solved, but another had taken it’s place. This was the first mention of rollerblades and I am not the most athletic adult you’ll ever encounter. Christmas was looking a little bleaker now that I had to buy myself a present too. But, Santa had promised.
I served the most inexpensive meals I could find for the next few weeks, and frequently showed up to shop for groceries at my mother’s refrigerator. I had a little money saved, and somehow managed to save enough to buy two pair of new skates, helmets and pads. They even matched in color.
Christmas morning, B’s eyes lit up when he saw the presents under the tree. Books and Rollerblades for him and for his mommy — exactly what he had asked Santa for. He had so much fun putting on his new skates. He wanted to show me how to skate but it was very cold that day, too cold to skate outside. After I made B. swear that he wouldn’t tell G’ma, we moved all of the furniture out of the family and dining rooms and created an inside rollerblade rink. We skated around the rooms for a couple of hours, leaving fingerprints on the walls as we bumped along, and leaving tracks that eventually came out of the carpet with a steamer. It was a too big of a promise — and too much fun — for a six year old to not tell his grandmother, and as predicted she was appalled that I would allow such ‘horseplay’ in the house. But, it didn’t matter. It was the most memorable Christmas morning we ever shared.