I still remember the moment. I was six. In the first grade. The whole class was sitting on the floor, Indian style. It is not called that anymore. Indian style is politically incorrect. Which is ironic, since it was chosen to replace the previous politically-incorrect name, "akimbo." Now it is called "cris-cross-apple-sauce," which sounds completely ridiculous coming out of the mouth of a grown woman, unless she is a kindergarten teacher, in a festive and seasonally appropriate vest.
My first grade teacher never wore a vest, festive or otherwise, that I can remember. And, I think I would remember if she had been wearing a vest that day, as it was Christmastime, and almost every other detail is burned into my memory. As I mentioned, we were all sitting on the floor, listening to Ms. Moring (Yes, Ms. It was the seventies.) read "The Night Before Christmas," (which is also, now, politically incorrect, but I am going to have to let that go, or I shall never finish my story), when a girl--a mean, busy-body, know-it-all, sort of girl--named Michelle announced, "Santa is just your mom and dad."
Just like that.
Quickly, and in slow motion, a shock-wave of enlightenment rippled through the room, as every child turned toward her, their mouths agape. But, my mouth was the quickest. I sat tall, and announced with certainty, "That's not true."
Ms. Moring cleared her throat nervously and quicker than you can say, "On Dasher, on Dancer," Michelle was scuttled away to the office on an errand. Santa-sedition would not be tolerated. Disaster averted.
There is an old saying, that you can't un-ring a bell. And, it's true. I finally had to ask my mother the truth about Santa. But, not until after Christmas. I may have been a fanciful and unrealistic child, but I wasn't stupid. Who wants to find out the truth about Santa right before Christmas?
Did you notice, in the last paragraph, where I called myself "fanciful and unrealistic." Well, that explains what happened next.
Even though I knew the (alleged) truth about Santa, I refused to accept it. On Christmas morning of the following year, I got up at half past four, like I always did, giddy with excitement. My parents had a deal. We could get up, and open our stockings, but not our presents. And we were not to wake them. Well, we (my sister and I) were pretty good about that first part. There was enough in our stockings to keep us busy, and Santa never wrapped his presents. But that part about not waking them? Well, let's just say, if you don't want to get up at 5 o'clock on Christmas morning, you should not have kids.
That Christmas morning in 1976, eleven and a half months after my mother looked me in the face and told me that there was no such thing as Santa, I burst into her bedroom to show her my brand new dictionary and a watch with a yellow band; both gifts from Santa. I told her all about the record player he brought me. It was under the tree in the living room. Did she want to come see it?
I'm sure she thought I was nuts. And, she may have seriously considered bopping me on the top of my head, hoping to engage the "snooze" function. I know that's what the grown-up-I would want to do. But she couldn't. My little sister was there, you see, and she was still pure. Mom could not risk spoiling Christmas for her.
This (alleged) denial of mine went on for years, until finally, when I was, oh, maybe twenty-five (though still single and childless and hanging my stocking over her fireplace), my Mother announced that this was the year Santa stopped coming. I assured her, she was wrong. He was coming. She assured me he was not. I told her I had faith. She told me I was crazy.
Christmas morning we all awoke to stockings, filled with goodies, suited to each of us. Santa had come, once again. I knew he would not let me down.
And, he never has. Every year I hang my stocking, and every year there has been something in it. Do you know why? Because I believe.
I wonder what that little anarchist, Michelle is getting in her stocking this Christmas.
[The art is by Haddon Sundblom, an advertisement for Coca-cola from 1951. His illustrations for Coke, starting in 1931, have done much to influence the icon of the American Santa. If you find this even remotely interesting (as I do, obviously) check out the history of the Coca-cola Santa HERE.
I picked this particular illustration, because he has a face like my father's.]