Kids had been talking about it at school, and the majority swing was that Santa didn't exist, he was your mom or dad, and the older kids had convincing arguments, like, "how can he visit all those houses in one night?" So I finally asked my mom, who told me with a stone cold face that there was a Santa. She used the same tone of voice that she used when she lied about other things, so I immediately knew something was up. I didn't say anything, which she knew meant I was thinking, so she tried to counter with the fact that kids who don't believe in Santa don't get presents. This didn't work in the way she had planned, I guess, because I became even more convinced she was lying to me for two reasons: First, it seemed like a desperate threat, the kind used by potential kidnappers in films we saw in school about not getting into cars with strangers. "If you don't come with me, I'll tell your mom and dad you were VERY bad!" Second, I knew older kids got presents from Santa, even those who told me there was no Santa, and their parents still kept up stockings because it was a second set of gifts.
So I did what I usually did, assumed I was on my own, and planned to catch my mom in the act. We had a large blue couch in our living room at the time, and I was starting to get big enough so that I could no longer squeeze under it. Often my parents sent me under the couch to retrieve cat toys, cats, or other things that rolled under there. It was a sneezy, dusty place, but after my parents went to bed (they went to bed at 9, which even then was kind of early), I managed to wriggle myself under there. I almost didn't make it; I was so fat now that my belly was pushing my back against the wooden support beams and the springs. Twice I lifted the couch up in the air, where it fell back to the carpeted floor with a soft "thump." I paused, hoping that my parents didn't hear, but if they did, they never got out of bed (our house was so creaky, you could tell where people were on the second floor if they moved around). My father was started a lot of his heavier abuse around this time, so already I had learned how to sleep under my bed and stay very still if he was looking for me, and this skill helped that Christmas Eve.
I waited until about 7am, I guess. Whatever dawn was. I slept on and off, scared the bejesus out of Shasta (our resident scaredy-cat) when she tried to go under the couch, and tried not to think about the bugs that might be crawling around at night. But a little after dawn, my mother came to the tree, slightly drunk, and giggling. She put the presents in the stockings, wrote the Santa thank you card, and ate the cookies and milk. Then I lay in wonder as to what to do next; I hadn't entirely thought this through yet. I could rise up from the couch, knocking it back, and going, "RAAAAWWWWRRRR!!!!" I had done that to her from around corners before, but then I thought the couch was too heavy to just toss aside like a blanket (but it was light enough for me to move around and tip over, if I was so inclined). Now that I look back on this thought, it would have probably given my mother a heart attack. So thankfully, I did not chose this option. I just stayed there. I kind of half-figured it would solve itself in time, but after she ate the cookies, she went back to bed.
So I wriggled out from the couch, and went to bed, too. I fell into a deep sleep, and had to be woken up by my mom, a first of many to come for Christmas. Apparently, they waited until 11, because my father thought I was in some waiting game, and he was going to win. My mother finally checked on me to make sure I wasn't dead. I woke up, looked at my electric clock (I had this old, white-dial electric analog clocks that hummed all the time, anyone remember those?), and saw it was 11. Oh no, did I miss Christmas? No, my mother assured me, but it was odd I got up so late. Did I wait for Santa? she asked.
"No," I lied, annoyed at the question on many levels. I was never a morning person.
I didn't say anything that morning, or the next. In fact, I didn't say anything until early Spring, when my mother started with that, "Maybe Santa will bring you that..."
"You're Santa," I said. We were in a shop at the time, and I was annoyed at her patronization.
"W-what?" she asked.
I told her, play-by-play, what I had seen. She tried to tell me I was dreaming, but I explained three other things she could not explain:
- She used the same wrapping paper
- The Thank-you note was in her handwriting
- Several things I had asked Santa, and Santa alone for, were not there
- But everything I asked her for was
- How did the cats and fish get Santa gifts? Saint Nick was not the patron Saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi was (I found this out from my Catholic friends).
- All the other kids knew, anyway
She was a little heartbroken. I didn't care at the time, but my stern nature was a result of my weakness at being patronized at the time, and I probably could have handled it better. My mother "forgot" the incident at least a few times more a year, and each time, I explained, in detail, that I knew. I would later discover that my mother thought I was eight until she died ten years later.
Christmas at our house was turning sour anyway. It's probably best Santa skipped our chimney. After that Christmas, I stopped getting up early. Fights between me and my father were becoming the norm, and a few Christmases, my mother was too drunk to get up. Sometimes, Christmas would roll around noon or so, with my mother in various stages of sober, drunk, or hung over. Stockings were still stuffed, albeit sometimes a few days after Christmas when my mother remembered where she put them. And when I became a teen, I often spent Christmas day with friends who had slightly more sane families (thank you, Wickland and Tredwell families).
The last time I told my mother she was Santa ended up like, "GODDAMIT I AM 17!!!" During one of our many, many pointless, "I'm not drunk/Yes you are, mom!" debates. Hell, I pointed out that I had stuffed the stockings twice. The final straw was when I was 17, and told her I didn't need Santa anyway, because I had a job and whatever I needed I could just buy.
Now I always feel the standard, "Santa is the spirit of giving," even with my past. Maybe in spite of it. So, when Christine and I had CR, we surprisingly came to agreement right away that we would tell CR there was no Santa, and if he asked again, he'd be eaten my evil flying spiders that lay hidden in his closet.
Actually, I am hoping Christine tells the story in her blog, because in the end, I think CR and Christine summed up the whole Santa thing nicely.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000687.html