The Year Santa Died

sad child

Blog  Note: all names have been changed (barely) to protect the innocent and the insolent except for the names of my 4 sisters!

Picture this: Me in school in Grade 4.  It was the latter part of mid-December and as one of the oldest kids in my class, I was 10 years old.  Reading period had started and there was a group of us kids standing around the bookshelves looking at Hardy Boys books, deciding which title would be the most interesting read. Miss Haley, our teacher, had stepped out of the room to copy some Christmas activity sheets.

There was a cacophony of chatter as a huddle formed at the Nancy Drew books end of the shelves.  Everyone was shooting looks across the room.  It appeared to be directed at Reanne and Taren.  Their faces were matching their fiery red hair.  I was curious as to what was going on.  Billy, Beryl and Nic were joined by one of the boys and there was a huddle of whispering and giggling.  One of the girls approached me laughing.  She said, ‘You are not going to believe this!  Taren and Reanne still believe in Santa Clause!”

I searched her eyes to see if she was serious.  Could this be true?  All eyes went to Taren and Reanne as this girl exuberantly delivered the news. My searching went to all faces including the reddened faces of the ginger best friends.  Both girls were hating the attention being brought their way.  I felt for them.  The most shy, quiet and sweet little red heads ever were the brunt of this negative attention.

“Can you believe it?” Billy said.  I pulled my voice back into my body, still wondering as I searched face to face, “Can this be true?  Like REALLY true?? Is it a big lie that parents carry on with?  There is NO Santa?”  I felt heart sick but there was no way I was going to show it with seeing what was being thrown Reanne and Taren’s way.

“No way!” I responded to her.   I chose in that moment not to stand where my belief was.  I was with Taren and Reanne but I was really hoping they were all joking. Wanting to avoid the laughing and mocking, I pretended that I too, knew there was no Santa.  I went and talked with Taren and Reanne, never telling them my beliefs.  “Is it true you still believe in Santa?” I asked.  When they said yes, I looked back at the jeering group, nodded and gave a little smile.  I was with them.  Not my proudest moment but the only thing I could think of to cover my inner turmoil and not become the center of this attention.  All the while waiting to get home and investigate.

I stormed through the door to find my mom not at home.  Neither was my older sister, Florence or my baby sister Lynette.  My partners in crime, the other two middle sisters, Sherry and Juana came in close behind me carting the same news I had received.  We were in disbelief and wanting to show it wasn’t true.  There IS a Santa and I’m going to prove it!

We set out on a quest to prove them all wrong and sat down to devise a plan.  If it wasn’t Santa who delivered the gifts, it had to be our parents.  That in turn meant that the gifts would have to be hidden somewhere around the house.  Especially this close to Christmas.   We checked under my parent’s bed.  In the closet.  In the dresser.  In the space under the house.  Everywhere we could think to look.  There was nothing to find.  Then we looked at the attic hatch.  One last place to look to set this thing to rest once and for all.

We helped each other negotiate through the house with the ladder.  Not knowing how much time before Mom would be back from grocery shopping, we had to be quick.  I went up the ladder first and pushed the hatch up and out of the way.  I stuck my head through the opening and was disappointed to see that there was a pile of brand new, unopened games and toys.  It wasn’t long before two other heads popped up into view.  One blonde and one brunette.   They sat above the ceiling with me, exploring the treasures we had found.  Happy and sad all at once, we opened a couple of games that were not sealed, played with them and put them back.   We went back down the ladder and removed it from the house.

I couldn’t deny what I had just seen but I wasn’t ready to accept it.  There was still a way.  I would know for sure on Christmas morning when there would be ‘different’ things under the tree than the items we had just explored and played with.  I held out hope that this would be the truth of Christmas morning.

The next day, Taren and Reanne were back on track with their firm belief in Santa.  I envied them.  I wanted that back.  I was so unsure of everything.  Their parents reinforced that they didn’t have to believe what everyone else did.  They should believe what they believe and there really is a Santa.  I hadn’t said a word to my folks so no reinforcements for me. (Too paranoid that if there was no Santa and I told Mom and Dad, then I was too old for presents…and I wanted the presents!)   I wanted to have that blind belief and trust again.  Just like yesterday before all the hullabaloo broke out.  (Blog Note:  Taren and Reanne got the privilege of Santa for another Christmas before our grade 5 substitute teacher meanly announced to the class that nobody should be believing in Santa at this age.  Santa dies again!)

Christmas morning came.  I woke in the middle of the night, woke my 4 sisters and we stormed the living room where our tree was standing.  Florence plugged in the lights and we began looking for our names on the gifts.  As we tore through the paper, we found exactly what we had seen and played with in the attic.  I wanted to cry.  There was nothing else.  No Santa.  Santa was dead… and I had to deal with it.

dead santa

That Christmas was a very sad one for me.  The morning Santa died held no mystery or magic for me.  Even if I had poked at other presents and guessed them, I could count on Santa for the surprise.

What we found in the attic space had changed me for life.  Before our gift opening, I used to poke and shake anything with my name on it.  Guessing and wondering what it was.  I was always excited to see how close my guess was when I got to open it.  That came to an abrupt halt!  I no longer shake, rattle or roll gifts to try to guess what they are. No early peeking.  I won’t let anyone give me hints!  I don’t want to know!

I found out that day that I like the magic of not knowing.  I enjoy wondering and I love the wait.  I absolutely adore being in the moment of Christmas morning and watching people open their gifts.  The expressions and excitement fills my heart which is why I chose to engage in the charade of Santa with my two sons, Peter and Ryan.  They appear to be none the worse for wear for my selfish indulgence and I expect they will choose to have their children awake for Santa when/if they choose to have children.

A few years after Santa’s fatal day, I found the story of Saint Nicholas and was happy to know that there was a way for Santa to live again.  I didn’t have to go through the Victor Frankenstein processes to bring Santa back.  He could live through me and my actions all year long.  It didn’t have to be just at Christmas time.  Although there was no physical manifestation of a chubby man in a red suit with reindeer, he is alive and well; Living in the hearts of all who hold the spirit of giving.  

 

Alive in our hearts!