some rambling thoughts about santa
It's been quite a few years since my kids believed in Santa. Rather than taking the magic out of Christmas, their non belief has made the holidays even more fun. We certainly couldn't we sit around and make up horrible stories about the jolly old man if they thought he was real. From dreaming up tales about what that coal in your stocking is really made of (packed ashes of little children that didn't complete the requisite 70 hour work week at the North Pole), to watching Silent Night, Deadly Night, our Christmas traditions have become somewhat warped. What do you expect from a family that are experts in zombies?
When I read yesterday about Santas run amok, I smiled. I'm sure there are a lot of people worried about the fragile psyches of the children who witnessed a hundred drunk Santas running through the streets, but I wonder how many of those people realize that their own Santa traditions are nothing more than fucking with a kid's head, anyhow?
At some point in history, Santa Claus went from some guy who helped poor women get dowries to a fat man with a voyeur fetish. Perhaps to children, Santa is still a jolly old man who bestows gifts upon them and performs magic that can make reindeer fly. But to parents, Santa is nothing more than a convenient scapegoat.
I'm convinced that the modern version of Santa was put out there by an underground cabal of irresponsible parents. If they could blame this Claus guy for the shitty presents under the tree, there would be no need to tell their kids that daddy spent all the Christmas money on hookers and beer. Instead of waiting on line five hours at PlayWorld for Betsy Wetsy, mothers could just blame the absence of the doll on the fat man. Who cares if little Suzie harbors a resentment towards Santa for the rest of her life? Mom could save tons of energy by avoiding fights in Suzie's teenage years that would stem from her latent anger over not receiving the doll that pisses her pants.
By using Santa as a scapegoat, parents do run the risk of setting themselves up for disaster. Eventually we all have to explain the standard parent lies of Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, but by blaming every bad or absent present on Santa, you'll just exacerbate the situation. Some day at a large, drunken family gathering, someone will be telling a story about the time you got plastered at your office Christmas party and called your boss a tightwad bitch so she fired you on the spot, and a light bulb will flash in your son's head, at which point he'll stand up and shout "You god damn liars! You told me I didn't get the Ewok Village that year because Santa was disappointed in my report card!" Estrangement ensues.
This is what happens when you use a gentle little fib, one designed to make children happy, and turn it into a full scale lie, complete with intricate webs of deceit. I've seen many a parent go down that road when their kids asks for the unattainable. Can I get a pony for Christmas? Instead of just saying No and that's the stupidest thing you ever asked for, the parents says We'll have to ask Santa. We'll see. To a child, the words we'll see mean the opposite of yes. He didn't say no! He said we'll see! So that kid spends weeks and weeks keeping her fingers crossed for a pony from Santa and when Christmas morning comes and all she gets is a few dresses and My Little Pony coloring book, she starts crying. But the parents absolve themselves of any blame. Eh, Santa fucked you but good, Sally!
One Christmas we were performing our tradition of putting out some salt for the reindeer and some Jack Daniels for Santa. Natalie seemed extra anxious that year and I asked her why. Apparently, she had written a letter to Santa asking him to put a baby sister in my belly for Christmas.
I was a single mother then. I hadn't had sex in over a year. I though to myself, if Santa comes down that chimney and say let's make a baby, I'm going for it. I spent that whole night waiting for the sound of sleigh bells on the roof. Sure, I stopped believing in Santa when I was seven, but sometimes, when you are in the throes of desperation, your mind plays tricks on you.
Which is probably why my daughter, 14 years old and desperate for a $500 digital camera, has taken to writing letters to Santa again. Which she delivers to me. And I promptly destroy her Nikon dreams, resulting in a rush of foot stamping, whining and petulance.
Santa sucks, she says. I know she means me. In fact, she let on a few years ago that she always knew I was the one who bought the presents. She never fell for that elves in the workshop crap because she always managed to find the "Made in China" stamp on her presents. She did believe in Santa, but she thought he was just some overlord who bossed his workers around and shopped at flea markets for her gifts. DJ, who is observing our whole conversation, chimes in that he always thought the elves were really zombies and Santa was an alien who controlled them some with kind of radar machine.
All those years, they never once believed in Santa as the benign, jolly old man. Which explains why in every single picture I have of them sitting on Santa's lap they are screaming in terror.
[ed note: How the hell did I get from the opening paragraph to this? Let's try to connect it all here]
This is also why my kids would never be shocked to see an anarchist Santa having his way with a piece of sushi in a Japanese restaurant. Or why, many years from now at a drunken family gathering, they will only laugh when my sister tells them the story of that Christmas night when I mistook a friend's jingling car keys for sleigh bells.
Ho, ho, ho indeed.