Another Christmas Story.
Quick internet research tells me that eight or nine is the average age when a child may arrive at a different idea about the Santa deal.
By the Christmas of 1967 I had just turned 8 years old. We lived in a small Northwestern Illinois town of maybe 1000 or so people. There was no internet. There were no smart phones. We probably still had “party lines” around the rural areas outside of town. We might have had 3 or 4 television stations… ABC, NBC, CBS and probably PBS. Maybe. In order for these stations to be seen on our television, we had to make sure that our antenna was pointing in the correct direction. I was in Third grade and found that one of the girls I had to partner with during square dancing had cold and clammy hands. My major influences were my parents, neighbors and the kids at school.
I believe that my Mother’s Mother lived with us at the time and had gone to stay with my Aunt for Christmas as we would be going to visit my Father’s parents in the Chicago area.
We lived in a large house with high ceilings. Every year, we would put up a much too large real tree and decorate the shit out of it with ornaments that had been accumulated though the years by grandparents and great grandparents. Mom was also quite creative and we had produced a large number of ornament projects for the tree. There were lights and tinsel and spinning things. There were weird fragile glass things that became more and more extinct with each year’s unwrapping and re-wrapping for storage. There were bells and balls and turkey wishbones made into reindeer faces. It was a big deal.
Since we would be traveling to the Chicago area and spending Christmas Eve and Day away from home, there was some concern that Santa would somehow miss us. I don’t really recall this, but I suspect that I may have been having suspicions about Santa.
Since Mom knew a lot of people in town, and since she usually made a lot of baked things to give away to some of these people over the holidays, it only seemed normal that we would have to go deliver some goods to people after we had dropped Mom off at another neighbor’s house one night.
Here’s how it all went down: We dropped Mom off about a block away at someone’s house. Then, we had to go across town to deliver something to some old neighbors. After that, we went back to pick up Mom from the neighbors up the street and then returned home to find that someone had sort of broken into the house.
There was evidence everywhere. Someone had tracked snow into the house. Walking to the front of the house where our Christmas tree was located, we discovered that a bunch of gifts had been placed under the tree. On a blue metal bell ornament located prominently in the front of the tree at 8 year old eye level was a type written note. It said something like “Dear Jeff and Marty, I heard you were going to be away for Christmas so I brought your things early. Santa.” Or something like that.
Holy shit!! More investigation determined that in fact, there were foot prints and SLEIGH tracks out on the extended roof that went over the kitchen. It was a flat roof and there was a door that was not completely closed… and snow tracks into the house. I would be hooked for a little longer. When school resumed in January, I took the note to show and tell so I could once and for all prove that this was not some scheme cooked up by parents – Oh no! I had proof!
Later I would find out that the elaborate con went more like this: We dropped Mom off up the street. Dad made sure we saw her go in the neighbor’s house before we left. After we left, Mom hoofed it back to the house in the snow. She placed the gifts under the tree and the note on the bell with a piece of scotch tape. At some point she had actually pulled out our Underwood Typewriter and faked the “actual” note. She went upstairs and out the back to the upper roof… and using a long curtain rod made sleigh tracks in the snow as well as reindeer prints and some boot prints. After all was set, she went back up the street in the snow, back to the neighbor’s house and eventually we picked her up to go home.
Since there were not cell phones and I can’t remember if she called to give Dad the okay to come get her, I can only assume that she somehow rehearsed the timing on this whole thing.
I was recalling this today after I listened to the Megyn Kelly discussion about Santa and Jesus being white dudes. In my mind, Santa was always the Haddon Sundblom version. As I stated previously, my influences were my parents, neighbors and kids at school. Perhaps I did catch some of the TV versions of Santa which would have included what I saw on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964) or maybe the Santa from some Norelco ads. In my mind, Santa was a fat white dude. I knew this because this is what I had been made to believe. Later in life I would learn about other Santa stories and/or origins. Knowing that the whole Santa thing is complete bullshit, I was am completely okay with Santa being white, black, kind, evil… or whatever you want Santa to be. Just like… go ahead and believe in whatever religion you want or follow a certain political persuasion if you like. Just don’t fuck it all up for everyone else by going on National TV and suggesting that White is the way it is, it just is… for both Santa and Jesus.
Way to fuck up the conning of the Christmas/Santa story, Megyn! Now, parents all across the Nation will have to come up with why in the hell some woman on TV claims that Santa is in fact a fat white guy. You could have just left it alone in a don’t ask, don’t tell fashion but no, you had to add another level of stress to the already stressful holiday season. “Mom, how come David’s Santa is black and ours is white?” Now Mom has to fabricate yet another lie to compensate for this. “Perhaps Santa appears differently to different people, Jimmy.” I would hope it would go that way and not “David is wrong, Santa has always been white.”
I think that my Mom would have been able to handle this. I’m glad that my kids are old enough that I don’t have to deal with it or perpetuate the lie. I’m sorry for them as their kids are “in the Santa zone” at this time.
Beyond all that, we’ve been re-doing our upstairs. Someone (me) decided that Venetian Plaster would be a good way to go – to maybe hide some of the flaws in the walls of our 100 plus year old house. What a bone head idea. Turns out that this is a whole lot of work! The end result is worth it though… it just takes a lot of time and effort. Along the way, I decided to take some pictures of the progress. After taking this image, people started to “see” things in the wall pattern. I saw Santa. I don’t know if this is a white, black or brown Santa… but it appeared to be Santa – with a hockey stick?