It’s hard to believe this year is almost over, and I’m usually running around up until the last minute, stressing myself out with unnecessary Christmas bullshit, but this year I decided to get everything done early so I can relax and enjoy a nice festive ending to a very shitty year.
As I sit here eating my Cocoa Puffs, I was thinking back on childhood Christmas memories.
I remember this vividly. We went to Lord & Taylor before Christmas, a very nice department store. I was about five years old and was with my mom, my sisters, a friend of my mom’s and a couple of her kids. I actually don’t remember anything until I got on Santa’s lap, and then after I told him what I wanted for Christmas, I innocently asked him if he took a bath. I think I remember it because my mom laughed, but she most likely was laughing in that embarrassed, “why can’t my kid keep her mouth shut” kind of way. In retrospect, this makes sense, as I am a little obsessed with good personal hygiene. And I don’t remember if he smelled or if I just wanted to know if someone as magical as Santa took a bath like the rest of us. But I can imagine that probably didn’t make Santa feel very good that day. He was probably sweating in that suit and fake beard and here comes this little asshole asking him if he bothered to bathe.
Do you remember when you found out there was no Santa? I do…like it was yesterday. Wasn’t it devastating when you found out? It just planted a seed of bitterness within me. And yet, once I found out, I started putting the pieces together and thought, “of course, how did I not know sooner?”
When I was about six, I was smart enough to be suspicious of all the different Santas, I just couldn’t figure out how he got from a store in my neighborhood to a store in another I neighborhood without being seen. I remember consciously thinking that, but then again, it was Santa, so maybe he could do that. But wouldn’t someone see him leaving in his sleigh with the reindeer? But there was always a sneaking suspicion about things. For example, why was the Santa in my neighborhood a little dirtier than the Santa at Wanamaker’s? (fun fact: Wanamaker’s was the first department store in Philly.) Why did the Santa in my neighborhood smell a little bit like booze? The Santa at Wanamaker’s had a clean beard. Oh yeah, I had an eye and a nose for detail.
Well, it all came together one day in the funeral home (I was seven). It wasn’t even Christmas time, but I was with my sister Kris and her friend Jimmy, who lived down the street from us. I don’t even know how it came up in conversation, (I was standing next to a casket) but Kris just came out with it and told me that Santa wasn’t real. It was like a slap in the face. It’s such a devastating moment when you find out. It’s like everything that makes Christmas so great is just crushed in an instant. The first question out of my mouth was, “Does this mean the Easter bunny and Tooth Fairy are fake too?” I think I cried.
I confirmed this horrible new information with my mom. That’s a bad day in the life of a kid. However, in retrospect, I’m glad Kris told me so that I wasn’t one of those kids that believe up until their 13 and everyone thinks they’re a weirdo. I passed on this favor to my brother, like a lot of siblings do. I had forgotten that I told him, but he reminded me and said I did it in my typical bitter fashion. He said he was at that age when he was starting to question whether or not Santa was real, but was holding on by a thread in the hopes that he was. It was Christmas day and we were opening presents, he had one in his lap and said something like, “I wonder what Santa brought me?” I looked at him, paused for a second and then said, “You know he’s not real, right?”
Isn’t that horrible? I was obviously still bitter about the truth, having found out about 3 years earlier, and I imagine I just couldn’t take having to pretend anymore just for the sake of my brother, who was damn well old enough to know by now that life just sucks sometimes. But I also did him a favor because there was no way I would let my brother be one of those weird kids either, and I certainly wouldn’t want him to hear it on the street. Where’s the gratitude?
Okay, I should have been nicer about it, but if you’re looking for nice, then Kris should have told him. Honesty is my forte, not diplomacy. A lot of kids find out because they catch their parents putting the presents under the tree. I never did that, but once I found out there was no Santa, I would go hunting for the presents (my mom always hid them in her closet), and I would go so far as to unwrap a few and look at them. It was compulsive behavior, I couldn’t not peek. I did this every year into my teens. It was a phase though…kinda like my shoplifting. We’ll talk about that later. How did you find out the devastating truth about Santa? Are you prepared for Christmas? Did you pick up some more pepper spray?