I, Santa Claus December 7, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Holidays, Parenting.
Tags: Christmas, Christmas in New York, Family, Humor, Is Santa Claus Real?, Life, Parenting, Santa Claus, Telling Children the Truth about Santa Claus
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!