Let me start by saying that I never once believed in the big man in the red suit. Not when I was an infant. Not when I was a toddler. Not when I was a naïve child. Not ever. But I never told anyone this, fearing that if the mystery was taken out of Christmas, I might lose the privilege of annual presents under the tree. I’m not sure why I thought this, but I did.
Then I started school and Christmas rolled around and I thought everyone else was just pretending to pretend, like me, so when the teacher started talking about all this nonsense about Santa Claus and how his reindeer liked to eat pink and red glitter oatmeal, I expected at least a giggle, but everyone was taking her seriously. And as she handed each child a bag of this “reindeer treat” and I just looked at my teacher and said-
She just ignored me and moved on. She was a an experienced teacher and was a few years from retirement, so I’m sure that my rude statement wasn’t the first she’d heard in her career. I still feel bad though. Sorry Mrs. Nemi.
But when I got home from school, I dumped the oatmeal on the snowy porch anyways. Mostly to prove to my parents that I was still cool and they could still give me presents and stuff. Even though the year before, I asked for a Barbie dreamhouse and got these little plastic doll things and a compatible house for them. I told my parents I liked it, even though my five-year-old self was lying because I got it from “Santa Claus” and I knew my parents would never get me a Barbie. But I actually really enjoyed the little plastic doll things, probably more than I would’ve enjoyed dressing up a Barbie doll.
Christmas day came, and I got pretty nice stuff. I can’t remember, but it must’ve nice, because what happened the next year didn’t happen yet.
1st grade. And I’m an angsty seven-year-old. I want a Barbie doll. I NEED a Barbie doll. Everyone else has one. I don’t. Well, my friend gave me one, but the head popped off. But I promised that I would take care of the next one. I SWEAR!
So, again, Christmas day came and I ran downstairs to find… a brand new sparkling (drumroll) microscope. NOOOOOOOOO!!!! I didn’t want that. No, NO, NOOOOO! That wasn’t fair! A microscope? Like a boring scientist? What the Frick’n heck!
I was very vocal about this distaste.
I mean, my sisters got fun things. They got toys. I wanted a TOY.
I have many things that I regret in this life, and one thing is complaining about an expensive and thoughtful gift in front of my poor mother. We didn’t have a lot of money, and I was really interested in science and a microscope was a genius idea, especially since I didn’t ask for it.
But at that moment, I cried. And I think that’s when my mother lost it.
My mother took me by the arm and ran me to a bathroom so she could speak to me privately and told me that Santa Claus wasn’t real.
I had two options.
Say, “Yes, I know this mother. I’ve known the entire time.”
Or, blubber like a baby some more and say, “What about Mickey Mouse? Is he real?” hoping that if I could keep the lie going that I always thought he was real, then Christmas could keep happening. After all, I didn’t ask to find out about Santa Claus. I was just being an immense brat.
My mother gave me a perplexed look. I don’t think that was the reaction she was expecting. “No, Mickey Mouse isn’t real either.” My head fell down into my hands as I thought more about how I could manage to steer this selfishly toward me.
I eventually apologized and went back to my microscope, trying to figure out how it worked, and learned to love it, blah, blah, blah. True story.
After that, Christmas was just like any other Christmas. And all other Christmases after that. And it’s actually my favorite holiday, the whole Christmas season. That is, until this miraculous year, 2016. Here’s what the first three days of this month looked like for me.
December 1st: Yay, Christmas, yay, yayaayayay.
December 2nd: I go to church and I start thinking about the year. About my life. About things. Happening around the world, to me personally throughout the year, and I just thought, this really sucks. And I started thinking about past Christmases. Knowing that I’d never get those things back. That they were just memories. Memories that I barely remembered.
I was listening to music (as I usually do on the way home from church) and was playing Frank Sinatra singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas on repeat, over and over and I couldn’t remember the last time I had a merry Christmas. Not because I never had one, I had many (even when I was brat), but because I repressed a lot of the things along with Christmas joy, like pain and loneliness.
December 3rd: I started thinking about the big man in the red suit that I never believed in as a child. How millions of children were writing him letters about their own wishes. Some probably even asking for Barbies of their own.
And I think to myself, that’s kind of stupid. Then again, I guess it gives people hope and stuff, and I’m just a cynical person with internet access.
Moral of the story, give your kid a microscope for Christmas. It’ll make them smart. Kind of. Oh yeah, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and whatever.