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I, Santa Claus December 7, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Holidays, Parenting.
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My son, Ian, was in the third grade when I, Santa Claus, was exposed. Only weeks after Christmas, Ian approached me with a bewildered expression on his face, clutching a piece of paper. “Why do you have all my letters to Santa Claus?” he asked point blank. Oh s**t! He’d found our cache of letters the boys had written to the big jolly man.

The frozen look on my face said it all. “You’re Santa Claus?” Ian asked incredulously. (Yeah, like I couldn’t eat a plate full of cookies.)  “I…I…I am,” I stammered, and my son burst into tears. Before I could begin to explain how this ruse worked, I saw my confession’s stunning ripple effect. Still wailing, Ian choked out, “And the Easter Bunny?” I nodded. More tears. “And what about the Tooth Fairy?” At this point I was so busted that I merely hung my head. Ian locked himself in his room and a tsunami of tears followed. What my son didn’t see were my tears.

You have to understand. As a child I loved Santa Claus. Just at that age (third grade), when everyone else was muttering something about Santa being your parents, I received a pair of roller skates from Santa that were the wrong size. This was proof that Santa WAS real. My parents would have known what size to buy me. But with so many children in the world, I could forgive Santa for not knowing my exact size. This mistake bought me (and my parents) another year of me being a “believer.” To be honest, I don’t even remember when I finally figured out Santa was my parents, or if we even talked about it. Maybe it was so traumatic, I’ve supressed the memory. But I tend to think I finally realized that it was a bit of a stretch that some jolly fat guy could deliver gifts all around the world without routing them all through Memphis.

When our first son, Taylor, was born, we were eager go play Santa. It’s the role of a lifetime and we played it to the max.  We were living in New York City and the city is magical at Christmas. One year friends invited us to their block association’s “Visit from Santa” event at a small park in Chelsea. It was freezing and we huddled together stomping our feet to try and stay warm while awaiting Santa’s arrival.

All of a sudden we heard a jolly, “Ho ho ho!” We looked up and there on the rooftop of a three-story brownstone, illuminated against a starry sky, stood Santa waving!  I got goosebumps. I was five years old again. I was a Believer!   Moments later, Santa emerged from the front door of the brownstone with his bag slung over his shoulder. He passed out advent calendars filled with chocolates before disappearing into a waiting Cadillac. It was only later, I found out that Santa was actually a Jewish guy named Morty. Morty was so overjoyed that he’d married off his last daughter, he asked if he could play Santa that year. That’s what I love about New York.

When Ian was born the next year, his big brother Taylor was only too happy to fill him in on Santa’s penchant for cookies and his elusive nature.

On Christmas Eve, the boys would write their letters to Santa. When they finally drifted off to sleep, we went to work. I snarfed the cookies then wrote a letter from Santa on parchment paper with a calligraphy pen. I even burned the edges so it looked like something out of a storybook. Before Richard and I went to bed, we pulled out the fireplace screen just a tad and made big sooty footprints over to where the cookies had been. It was a crime scene worthy of CSI.

One year the stockings looked so adorable hanging above the fireplace that Richard took a Polaroid. The mirror hanging over the fireplace reflected the flash and the image blurred. It actually looked like a being of light was moving toward the fireplace. In the morning we excitedly told the boys how we’d heard a noise and rushed out to the living room just in time to snap a picture of Santa. Taylor was determined to contact the National Enquirer because he knew they’d pay lots of money for a “real” picture of Santa. “Finally,” he announced.  “We have proof!”

Taylor figured out the Santa thing by the fourth grade. We were living outside Seattle by then and he seemed nonplussed.  He said it explained why Santa always gave gifts out of the Hearthsong catalog. That year Taylor helped set up the stocking for Ian and enjoyed watching his little brother delight in seeing what Santa had brought on Christmas morning. After we moved back to LA, Taylor continued to play along. Wink, wink.

So Ian’s heartfelt tears were like a knife to my heart. This wasn’t how I’d imagined it. But how much of life isn’t? So what did we do to help our traumatized son deal with the TRUTH. Taylor finally lured Ian out of his room and we all went to see a movie – a violent movie.  All I remember is it was rated R and there was lots of shooting, which as we all know, Santa wouldn’t approve of. Ian walked out of the theater and the storm had passed.

Ian is now 22 and loves to retell the story about finding Santa’s letters. The funny thing is his favorite thing about Christmas is still coming out to see what Santa has left in his stocking. (We tried to phase the stocking out when he was 17, but he wouldn’t hear of it). So I told Ian if I, Santa, still have to fill a stocking then he has to write “Santa” a letter. So Ian writes a letter giving me (I mean Santa) an update on his college grades, and I, Santa write a letter back, but don’t bother to burn the edges. And I still get to eat the cookies!

Comments»

1. Catherine Sherman - December 7, 2008

You were so creative! WIll you adopt me?

I wanted to believe in Santa Claus so much, but I don’t think I ever did. My parents were so devoted to capturing everything on film that we always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve when the whole affair could be orchestrated. We’d be assembled in the hall while waiting for “Santa” to arrive. The door would open to the recreation room, my father or mother would announce that “Santa has been here,” and all six of us, in matching outfits, would file into the room where an an equal number of gifts from “Mom and Dad” and “Santa” would be piled under the tree. My father filmed the entire proceedings. It usually took about two minutes to rip through the mound of gifts. Santa’s handwriting looked an awful lot like my Dad’s very neat printing. We did the same thing with our own children. Hey, maybe I didn’t want to give Santa the credit!

Catherine –
My father had the same obsession with getting it all on film! We had to get all dressed up and descend the stairs to our rec room only to be blinded by floodlights. After we opened each gift, we then had to turn toward the camera and display it. Even our dog, Holly, had to wear a bow and literally be pushed down the stairs into the limelight.

Santa filled our stockings and usually left us each one gift. He always left a pair of socks in our stocking, but seeing how cold it was at the North Pole, that just seemed practical on his part. Jan

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2. Bev from england - December 8, 2008

WHAT ???????????

are you telling me santa isnt real? 😦

im totally shattered now…think i need the hugs lol

HUGS

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3. moxey - December 8, 2008

We do the sooty footprints too… only I use baking soda mixed with silver and white glitter… easier to vacuum up.

It’s easier to milk the Santa thing when you have an only child, I think. Hopefully we’ll have one more year.

Cheers!

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4. elissestuart - December 9, 2008

So glad to see it is snowing there too.
My sister and I opened new pajamas on Christmas Eve. There are pictures (somewhere) of us with curlers in our hair, sitting by the fireplace. In the morning we could not open gifts until our hair was brushed and we “looked” perfect. My father took photos but usually someone’s head got cut off.
Guess I will have to tell you stories about my boys when we get closer to Christmas.

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5. Ginger - December 13, 2008

Hi Jan, love the way you tell a story. I still get goose bumps every now and then about Santa Claus, too. When I was little, I called him “Clawsy Claws”.

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6. Tony - December 14, 2008

wow, that was a great story. I have small nephews and nieces and they still believe in Santa – I still love to watch them at Christmas time when they take in all the magic. I know that one day they’ll learn the truth too, but for now we’ll enjoy the magic.

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