Confessions of a Diehard Santa Believer
For me, this time of year is less about the "now" and more about the "then."
I'm not a card-carrying member of any one religious group at this point in my life, but as a kid, I was raised Episcopalian. Christmas figured prominently throughout my childhood, which spanned the 1970s. It held meaning for this diehard believer in Santa and all things make-believe, and for that I'm grateful. Below, snapshots from the memory vault, which inevitably resurface every year in the days leading up to Christmas.
I remember...waiting in anticipation to decorate the tree, an event that followed my father's cursing out on the front porch while trying to jam the tree into the stand. My parents would play Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis records on the stereo while we kids would connect hooks to ornaments and find vacant spaces on tree boughs. One year, Dad went to Sears and bought "bubble lights," which he explained were all the rage when he was growing up in the '50s.
I remember... "Trudy Overnighters," an exotic-sounding meringue chocolate chip cookie that my mother would only make at Christmas. In fact, it might have been the only cookie my mother ever made, and it crumbled in your mouth like sawdust.
I remember...for the authentic Christmas cookie experience, I would get carted over to Aunt Beulah's house, where she'd pull out her binder-style Good Housekeeping picture cookbooks and I'd flip through the pages in wonder. I recall cut-out sugar cookies that I helped decorate with colored jimmies and sprinkles. She had a voice that a kid loved -- sweet in a Donna Reed sort of way -- and she called me "Kimberly" or "Love."
I remember...the year when I opened the door to a room on the third floor of our house that was deemed "off-limits" in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The Goody Two-Shoes in me knew that what I was doing was wrong, but my biggest mistake was telling my big-mouth brother that I had just spotted, no, it couldn't be -- a real-life bubble gum machine! My mother, who heard the commotion upstairs, demanded to know if we were guilty of trespassing and I lied and said, "No." She said, "You know, if you're lying, your eyes will turn black like coal and Santa will know and take back all of the presents."
Traumatized by the possibility that this would in fact be the year without a Santa Claus, I immediately confessed and offered a teary apology. On Christmas morning, there she was -- the bubble gum machine, standing about three feet tall -- and it took pennies! We thought we were the luckiest kids in the world.
I remember the personal home visits we received from Santa Claus, played by my grandmother Betty Fite (see picture above). Never mind that she was shorter than Santa at the department store, and didn't utter a single word during her visit. And Santa smoked a pipe! What was up with that? I'd give anything to be this gullible again.
I remember...reading "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus, " the famous editorial published in the New York Sun in l897 in response to a letter written by eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon. Oh how I could relate to Virginia and her quest for the truth. Like her, I had spunk at an early age, wanting to know things about the world and demanding to know the answers from adults in positions of power. (I wrote to President Nixon asking about the 1973 energy crisis.)
I remember...the very moment when I found my unsent letter to Santa Claus in one of my father's bags after the Christmas of 1976. I was 10 years old. I guess he figured the jig was up, and it was time to tell me the harsh truth. I cried inconsolably. I remember asking him about "Yes, Virginia" and argued that none of this made sense. As a peace offering, my father offered to take the whole family to my favorite pizza place for dinner, but all I did was sulk in the corner of the booth.
I remember...biting right into a candy cane, whereas my brother, John, would suck on it until the tip was as sharp as an ice pick and poke his sister and baby brother.
Now, it's your turn. Share your winter holiday memories. The funnier the better. Make me laugh.
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