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What Really Happened

My mom’s comment to yesterday’s post was that I have a good memory. To which I respond: How could a kid not remember that? But the truth is, I fudged the whole thing a bit for the sake of brevity. This is the true – and really not all that much more interesting – version, which may really make my mom marvel at my memory.

Christmas Day 1977 fell on a Sunday, and because my parents were evidently daunted by the prospect of getting four kids (8, 5, 3-month-old twins) up, Santa Claused, dressed, breakfasted, and out the door for services at my Grandma’s church, 30 miles away, they requested of Santa Claus that he visit us a day early. So I actually lost my tooth on December 23. On Christmas Eve morning, I woke up, found the Tooth Fairy’s offering, was suitably delighted, and trotted off down the hall to the bathroom. Moments later I heard my older sister shout, “Krista, guess who came last night?”

“The Tooth Fairy, I know, duh,” I replied. (Oh wait. That’s what my 5-year-old daughter would say, but I was raised right and was probably much more polite.)

“No, guess who else came!” Jana said, and then answered her own self: “Santa Claus! He came early!”

And that’s when I realized that Santa and the Tooth Fairy had both been in my very house on the very same night.

You’d think that I’d also remember when I realized that Santa Claus wasn’t “real,” but I don’t. According to family lore, it was when I was 8; my older sister came home distressed one day because her crotchety 4th-grade teacher had announced to the class that any one of them who still believed in Santa was a big fool. Apparently I already had an inkling, or didn’t care one way or the other (hey, presents are presents no matter who brings them), because I just don’t recall being the least bit distressed myself. We still had to pretend to believe, for many many years, for the sake of my little brother and sister. For me, it was just as fun to find opportune moments to sneak a peek in my parent’s closet, where the goods were hidden (Sorry, Mom!), as it was to believe in Santa.

We have some friends who don’t “do” Santa with their kids because they feel it constitutes a lie, and lying is, obviously, wrong. I guess if I’d ever known a kid who was really, really, truly and for all time emotionally traumatized by “the lie” I’d agree. I see Santa as more of a “let’s pretend” than a lie, though, and, as I said, since the end result is about wish-fulfillment and making your kids happy on Christmas morning, I don't see the harm. I do try to avoid the “Santa’s watching you” line because to me it WOULD be a lie to tell my kid that they’re getting nothing from Santa due to some misbehavior. (Although my brother did once get a jar of tears from Santa. Ha! Poor Casey.) Plus my kids never react the way they’re supposed to in these situations. Around this time three years ago, Mallory was acting up and I told her to watch it or she’d get a lump of coal in her stocking. “Ooo, what’s coal?” she asked. “It’s a rock,” I said, and for the entire Advent season she told very excitedly told everyone she met – teachers, friends, Target cashiers – that “Santa’s bringing me a rock!”

Plus, on a deeper level, I don’t want my kids equating “being good” with getting lots of presents because I don’t want them to ever think that children who are less fortunate than they are don’t get much because they’re “bad.” My mother-in-law gets around this one by saying that parents have to pay Santa for the toys he brings; I don’t know if I’ll go that far, but I do want Mallory and Phoebe to understand, eventually, that they have magical Christmas mornings not because of a fat man in a red suit, but because their parents are lucky enough to have good jobs and enough extra money to make it so. If Chris and I do our jobs right – as our parents did before us -- each year they’ll understand a little bit better what’s appropriate to ask for (a board game and a Barbie doll, yes; a trampoline and a pony, no), and that each gift is something to be appreciated, and that giving to others is important, too. And I hope they grow up and have just as much fun playing Santa with my grandkids as I am having now.

(I wish I had more time to spend on this because I feel that I could be much more eloquent than I have been. The words, they are not coming out the way I want them to today. Ho ho ho anyway!)


Anonymous said…
I repeat! You have an incredible memory.

aimee said…

I have many thoughts on this subject. I may have to blog about it as to not leave a long comment.
J&H Noble said…
Excellent thoughts, eloquent or not, although I believe they are! I love the magic of Santa Claus on Christmas morning, even though I know in my heart that Christmas is about our Savior's birth. I think that the people who are making us choose between the two have too much time on their hands and should mind their own business. But, that's just my opinion.
Happy Santa Clausing, and I'm impressed with your memory too!

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