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Full Circle: Santa’s main squeeze

No matter how old I get, there persists in the very core of me a shimmering glitter that is called Christmas. I’ve often wondered if, as I age, this would stop; that the glimmer would diminish. So far it has not. You see, once you’re a child of Christmas, you remain a child of Christmas … and therein lies its magic. No one can teach you the feeling of Christmas and you can’t make Christmas up. You, as a young child, must have lived it.

I began taking Christmas seriously when I was four. That’s when, to my disappointment, I learned that Christmas was not all about me. What prompted the change was hearing that Santa had open positions for elves. You see, living in the North Pole as he did, made him out of touch with knowing what was really happening in Austin, Minnesota.

I could actually be his pointy-toed, boots-on-the-ground elf. The thought left me reeling. What’s more, once I tweaked my act, my irredeemable behavior would qualify me to be not only an ordinary elf, but Santa’s Head Elf! Still for that to happen, there was work to be done. I’d have to curb my cranky, pouty proclivities. Thus on Dec. 18, 1943, I miraculously became just about perfect. I set the table with hardly a moan, I became almost nice to my brothers, and I made sure Rex’s water bowl was always full. Overnight, I morphed into the epitome of four-year-old godliness.

Being so extra especially good, I was therefore stunned when some of my friends bragged that they knew where their moms hid their Christmas presents. And that was not all. The little miscreants actually sneaked open those caches and looked at their presents. In my puerile mind, this was scandalous! The Devil’s work! Up until then I had not encountered real sin in my life, but I was pretty certain this was what sin looked like. Above all, I knew for sure those unruly scamps were not Presbyterians!

Didn’t those kids know how this Santa deal worked? That he was constantly watching them, deciding who was naughty and who was nice? Though shocked, I must admit to being conflicted. From afar I clandestinely admired those kids for their chutzpah, their moxie. Moreover, I wondered how they feigned excitement on Christmas morning when they had already seen their presents, and if their feeble attempts at re-wrapping them were obvious to their moms. Such gamblers! Such risk takers!

About this time mom told us she was planning a children’s Christmas party. This, of course, included even my bad seed friends, although Mom didn’t know they were bad and I wasn’t telling in case whistleblowing was on Santa’s no-no list. Immediately we went into party mode, sending out invitations, making food lists and going to Fantle’s to buy my sister and me matching red velvet dresses. My brothers got new sweaters and a lesson on how to comb their hair. Party-Hearty time!

On Dec. 23 I woke up in a near state of hysteria. This was the day! I opened my mouth to cheer when a raspy wheeze brought everything to a screeching halt. Had I swallowed a sandbox during the night? I couldn’t be sick on this of all days. Yet there I was with a gravelly throat, an achy head, a churning tummy and leg bones that felt as bendy as licorice sticks.

Surely I, Santa’s main girl, had to make an appearance. After all, my conduct had been exceptional for nearly five days in a row making me the poster child for impeccable awesome wonderful incredible behavior. Yet Mom took one look at the thermometer and announced there was no way on God’s green earth that I was attending this party. She would not have me spreading germs throughout the neighborhood. Then, thinking fast, she added that Daddy would hold me on his lap 20 feet away in the next room from where I’d be able to see and hear the party; a barricade of floor boards that no bacteria could cross or penetrate.

So, while my sister donned her red velvet dress and my brothers combed their hair, I had to put on my flannel pajamas. They felt like prison stripes. Then suddenly like an explosion, kids erupted into the house, so excited they were nearly apoplectic. With no holding back, they dived into the platters of gingerbread cookies, candy canes and cupcakes piled high with green fluffy frosting. Mom had gone big in the sugar department.

Just about the time everyone’s insulin levels were completely out of whack, Mom announced that they should go into the living room. There she corralled them into a ragged circle where she shushed them into silence. If they’d stay quiet, she told them, she had a surprise. A BIG surprise! (In my febrile torpor I squinted at them through rheumy eyes. The only surprise I wished for was voodoo dolls with those kids’ rascally faces on them … and a box of straight pins!)

Just then the living room door burst open. In walked a real fat man in a bright red suit. It was Santa! Santa in my house! Daddy’s vice-like grip around my germ ridden waist reminded me that I was not to move. I would not be meeting Santa. But as restitution, Daddy quickly consoled me; I’d still be able to see and hear everything. Arrrgh! Sheesh!

I was glued on Santa. Clearly he had an amnesty program for wayward children for he was now dandling my reprobate playmates on his knee while listening to their bogus angelic voices whispering into his ear their most fervent wishes. Meanwhile I sat there fermenting, his ho-ho-ho’s sounding to me as dull as mud balls. Then suddenly — just as the story goes — Santa laid a finger aside of his nose and with a nod to the children out the front door he rose … never once using our perfectly good fireplace chimney! (Should I have had some doubts about now?)

One might think that such childhood trauma would have forevermore sullied Christmas for me. Not so. I quickly forgot when three days later my germs moved out and Christmas Day moved in. And, yes, good old Santa completely redeemed himself by leaving the doll of my dreams under the tree.

But, just to be on the safe side, I still rein in my bad behavior as the holidays approach just in case Santa’s checking. I’m nicer to people and, without prompting, the dog’s water bowl is always full. I don’t claim to know what your Santa proclivities are, but I’d suggest you do the same. Throw out that old conduct and bring in the new. Now, refreshed and baggage free, you’re ready to meet the big Red Man himself.

Happy Holidays, dear cleansed friends!