Thursday, December 27, 2007

Believing in Santa

(I know I'm a little late, but I'm still in the Christmas spirit...)


I grew up believing in Santa.

One Christmas Eve when I was very young, my brother and I heard him knock over an ashtray in the living room. We didn’t get out of bed though – we were too afraid. We knew he only came once we were asleep, and we didn’t want him to catch us awake.

So we just laid there frozen in our bunk beds until we finally dozed off again. But for years, that was proof that he was real.

****

Throughout elementary school, I had the hardest time falling asleep on Christmas Eve. I would just lie there, wide awake in my brand new footy pajamas (every year we received new pj’s so we’d look presentable in the Christmas morning photos). Every once in a while I would turn over and look out the window above my headboard.

No reindeer on the roof.

No sight of them in the sky.

I would lie there waiting for him for as long as I could, but I’d eventually doze off sometime after midnight.

In the morning when I ran downstairs to check under the tree…

“He came! He came!”

And I would wake everyone in the house.

One year it was my brother who woke me. It was about 3:30 in the morning and sure enough, the presents were overflowing from beneath our twinkling tree. Duane woke me up first, and then the two of us ran to wake Mommy and Daddy.

“He came!”

“He did?”

“Yeah! Can we open presents? Please??”

“You can each open one, and then we’re going back to bed until the morning.”

My mother chose two from the pile that looked identical. One had my brother’s name on it, and one had mine.

Inside we each found tape recorders and three-packs of blank cassettes.

My parents went back to bed, and Duane and I set out to master the buttons and record our voices onto the tapes.

“Well… it’s Christmas morning,” Duane announced in a voice that was scratchy from a winter cold. “Mom and Dad went back to bed, and me and Tam are playing with our new tape recorders that Santa brought us.”

“I wanna talk!” I whined from the background.

“Okay…”

My brother slid the recorder over to me, and I sang a song I learned from Bugs Bunny:

“I wiss I was in Dixie... Hooway! Hooway! I wiss I was in Dixie… Hooway!”

Lots of giggles followed, and then the loud click of my brother stopping the tape.

We stayed awake playing with our tape recorders until the sun came up. And when my parents finally got out of bed and made some coffee, we were allowed to see what else Santa brought…

****

When I was a little older, we used to call a phone number advertised on TV to hear a story read by Santa. I’ll never forget the year we called at around 9 o’clock on Christmas Eve. Santa didn’t answer – it was Mrs. Claus:

“Oh my goodness,” she said. “What are you still doing awake? Santa is on his way to New York right now!”

I think our eyes shot out of our heads and ricocheted around the room like superballs. “Santa’s on his way here right now! We gotta go to bed!”

****

Duane was in 5th grade when his friend John caught his parents putting the presents under their tree. And he told Duane, and Duane told me.

“There’s no such thing as Santa, y’know.”

“There’s not?”

“Nope.”

“Well I’m not telling Mom and Dad that I know.”

“Why not?”

“Cuz then I’ll only get half as many presents.”

You see, about half of ours were labeled “From: Mom and Dad” and the rest were labeled “From: Santa.” I figured if I let on that I knew, there went half my stuff.

I was no dummy.
****

Christmas isn’t quite the same once you don’t believe. It’s fun to get all the presents, of course, but it’s more fun when you believe that something magical happens while you’re sleeping.

I was fourteen when my little brother was born and the magic was rekindled in our house.

When he was eight years old, Mandy was born, and so the magic continued on.

It wasn’t easy with her though… she was an extremely inquisitive child. I had to have very creative and consistent answers to her questions, consistent handling of such things as wrapping paper and handwriting, and even some serious acting skills.

“Mom….. this present says Santa, but it’s wrapped in YOUR wrapping paper.”

My face looked shocked, then even more shocked, then a vision of pure amazement…

“He… touched… our… stuff??? Oh my gosh! I wonder what else he touched!!” I started looking around the room.

“You think he used our tape and scissors too?” I asked. “I wonder if we can fingerprint this stuff?!”

She gasped. “You think he could have done it without his gloves on?”

“I don’t know! This is so cool! Are there any others he wrapped with our paper???”

And so another hole in the amusing charade was filled in, and the magic lived on. Mall Santas, flying reindeer, how the dogs sleep through it all… I creatively explained every piece of the puzzle, or at least presented a sound hypothesis. And when I just didn’t know how to answer, I’d say, “You know, I’ve always wondered about that too. What do you think?”

In the fifth grade she figured it out after seeing a movie on TV. And with that, all the magic collapsed liked dominoes, one after the other – the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny – everything gone in one fell swoop.

She was even a little annoyed that I had lied to her.

Of course, the holiday isn’t really about presents or Santa, and my daughter knows that.

But every year Mandy says to me, “You always made Christmas so great, Mom. I miss when I used to believe.”

And I tell her someday, when she has a child of her own, she can revive the magic all over again.

****

"Christmas--that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance--a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved." -Augusta E. Rundel

11 comments:

Travis said...

Beautiful.

I remember one year when we were at our grandparents. We were so nervous that Santa wouldn't know where to find us. But then we heard jingle bells and we were certain that Santa was on the block somewhere and that he knew where we weree.

But then we were so afraid we'd be caught wide awake and Santa wouldn't leave our presents!

There were about 3 yeas when I got to share in keeping the magic going for my little sister. We did the same for my younger cousins too. But it's been a long time since there was a little one nearby and I had to think quick for an answer to one of those "Yeah but how does Santa..." questions.

MyMaracas said...

You brought back a lot of lovely memories with this one. My family always made Christmas magic for us when we were kids, and I loved the years when my own boys were small. I think, though I am old, some little part of me will always believe in Santa.

Vicki

Tammie Jean said...

Hi Travis! You reminded me of the year I spent Easter at my father's place in Ohio, and Mandy was worried that the Easter Bunny wouldn't find her.
It is fun to make the holidays magical for the kids, isn't it? I miss that...


Hi Vicki! I'm glad I could bring back some memories for you. I think part of "playing Santa" is the joy of bringing joy to those you love, and that Christmas spirit is something to believe in :)

barb michelen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
KJP said...

You know, I punched out my sister for telling me there was no Santa Claus!

So, what are you trying to say about the Easter Bunny.......?

Ha, ha. Very good writing, as usual.

~*SilverNeurotic*~ said...

Happy New Year!

Malathionman said...

My dad was a real softie. He told us kids that he killed and ate the Easter Bunny.

The Real Mother Hen said...

You write so well.
Happy New Year to you.

VE said...

OMG...there's no Santa Claus??!!

Bud Weiser, WTIT said...

Teeje-
A terrific post. It is amazing the magic "believing" creates. You brought back great memories.

Hope your New Year is great! All the best...

Tammie Jean said...

Hi KJP! LOL - it is upsetting news, isn't it? It's like bursting the best bubble there ever was...


Hi Silver! Happy new year to you too! I thought you were on hiatus - it's nice to see you :)


Hi Malathionman! Oh my... I see where you get your sense of humor ;)
(but actually I think you ARE a big softie)


Hi Mother Hen! And thank you! Happy new year to you too!


Hi VE! Unfortunately, no... but that doesn't mean you can't still pretend you do so you get all the extra presents :)


Hi Bud! Yeah, I think Christmas memories are the best, because they bring us back to a time when we were so wide-eyed and innocent. Happy new year to you too :)