I Still Believe in Santa

I believed in Santa Claus until I was twelve-years-old. I blame my parents entirely; they were really good at being Santa. Like the year we moved into our new house. I was five and I secretly asked Santa for a new swing set. Christmas morning came and presents sparkled under the tree like diamonds, but I ran for the back door to see if the swing set was there. I was heartbroken to find the backyard was completely swingset-less. My parents were just as heartbroken when they learned I had asked Santa to bring the surprise swing set.

Despite the upset, Christmas morning was still a big success. The next day, while playing with all the new toys, I heard my dad in the backyard swearing up a storm. My mother rushed me outside to see what was the matter. My father was pointing at something. There on the roof of our house was a swing set, still in the box, right by the chimney.

“Santa must have been in too much of a hurry to set it up!” My father exclaimed.

I was in awe. It wasn’t until many years later that my parents told me about the ordeal of going out the day after Christmas and finding a swing set, hoisting it up onto the roof, and all the while keeping me distracted. Like I said, my parents excelled at being Santa.

But let me tell you, the elementary school playground is a rough place to be when you’re the last sixth grader who still truly believes. I suffered the slings and arrows of all my classmates who had long ago given up on Santa. But I didn’t care; I had Santa on my side.

Lucky for me the real hazing didn’t take place until right before Christmas vacation started. I usually tried to keep a low-profile with my Santa belief, but somehow I would always let it slip out.

A friend of mine once said, “I want the new Barbie Townhouse with the pull-string operated elevator, but my mom says it costs too much.”

“Santa will bring it to you!” I blurted out, opening myself up to prepubescent ridicule and degradation within seconds.

“You believe in Santa?! There’s no Santa! What are you, four-years-old?!” All the classic taunts along with the prerequisite laughing and pointing—the elementary school equivalent of torches and pitchforks.

I would have to convince them of Santa’s magical presence with logic.

The carrot! Yes, the carrot! My mother had tried to throw away my carrot from last year stating it was a health hazard, but I knew it would come in handy at a time like this, which is exactly why I put it in a ziplock baggie and labeled it, Santa Evidence: Exhibit A. “See, it’s a carrot left over from last year. Here’s where Dasher nibbled it.” No one in their right mind would dare argue with such hard-hitting, irrefutable evidence such as this.

“That’s an old carrot your dog chewed on!” some kid with overactive glands shouted.

Blasphemer! He was surely getting a lump of coal in his stocking this year. But it became clear that a factual approach was lost on these Santa-mockers.

As Christmas drew closer, I had to give up on trying to convince everyone of Santa’s benevolence and focus on my own survival. I was quickly becoming the focus of every kid’s pent up aggression and I had to think of a defense. This is when I really started honing my smart-mouth skills and learned that words really are weapons. It actually wasn’t too terribly difficult to prepare myself for the onslaught of verbal assaults from the kids with IQs half of mine.

“That’s the dumb girl who believes in Santa! Are you going to wait up all night for Santa and see if he brings you diapers, you big baby! If he’s real, why doesn’t Santa come to my house?!” Target acquired. This half-wit was about to be on the receiving end of my newly sharpened tongue.

“Actually, I didn’t ask for diapers. I asked Santa to bring me books because I like to read. I know that’s not a skill you possess but it probably won’t be necessary when you’re forty, balding, and working at the carwash applying Armorall to my tires. As for why Santa doesn’t visit your house, well, I can only assume it’s because your mother drinks too much and the empty Wild Turkey bottles on your front lawn scare the reindeer.”

I never realized how powerful words could be until that very moment. That kid backed away from me and never dared to slander Santa in my presence again.

As it turns out, that was my last year believing in Santa as an actual person. I came to understand that he’s not so much a real person as he is a feeling of excitement and a reminder that a little magic can ignite a whole lot of imagination.

Pop Rocks and Yoga

Yoga. It’s primal, earthy, and peaceful. Basically it’s everything I’m not. But there’s just something exciting about stepping out of your comfort zone and into a completely new world. Well that, and the fact that everyone I know does yoga and I was beginning to feel left out which led me to have flashbacks of when I was a kid and my friends were eating Pop Rocks but my mom wouldn’t let me eat them because she said I would die. Even now when I see those crystalized particles of death (as my mother called them) I long to try them but fear stops me every time.

But fear won’t get the best of me with yoga. I decide it can’t be any more dangerous than Pop Rocks so I sign up for a class and prepare to enter the esoteric and transcendental world of yoga.

I walk into the International House of Yoga (at least I think that’s what it was called) with all the enthusiasm of a woman with a brand new yoga mat and I try to blend in. A woman so small I could fold her up and put her in my pocket smiles and tells me to grab two blocks, a bolster, and a yoga strap.

A strap? This is getting a little too Fifty Shades of Grey for me. Great, I’m out of the loop again; I never did read that book because it was clearly written for women who don’t fear Pop Rocks. If it weren’t for the $40 I spent on this new yoga mat, I’d be out the door. But I really want to take the plastic wrap off of this thing, so I forge ahead.

I take a spot in the back of the room because I don’t want to block anyone’s mojo or unbalance someone’s chakras and hopefully no one will hear any foul language that might escape my lips during this adventure way back here. I tear the plastic off my new yoga mat and attempt to spread it out, but it just keeps rolling back up. I try to look yoga-cool as I roll the mat out then throw my body on top of it, flailing my arms and legs to each corner in a desperate attempt to flatten the mat out before the class starts. I lay there for a moment hoping everyone will just think I’m meditating when a woman stops and asks if I need help.

“Oh no, I’m okay. I just like to stretch out a little before class. It’s a yoga position from the old country. My grandma taught me. It’s called ‘Awkward woman on new mat.’ It’s quite invigorating, but not for those who embarrass easily.”

“Just relax and have fun. You’re going to love yoga,” says the woman then adds, “My name is Cascade.”

“Oh, like the dishwasher detergent!” I blurt out like a mom with no life, which I am.

Cascade’s smile fades and her eyes narrow. “No, like a water fall in a pristine forest high in the mountains untouched by the ugly hands of the logging industry.”

“I don’t like logs either,” I stammer. “Cascade always leaves my glasses spot-free, just like an unlogged forest. I mean, it’s nice to meet you, Cascade.” It’s at moments like this that I wonder why I am allowed to leave my house and mingle with the public.

The instructor gets class started and I feel pretty confident until we get to downward dog. A couple bits of advice for any yoga newbies: 1) don’t lotion your hands right before yoga class. This will cause you to slip slowly, inch by inch, into a convoluted version of downward dog, resulting in an immediate loss of dignity; 2) always wear a tight shirt to do yoga as a loose-fitting shirt will end up covering your head and thereby exposing those problem areas you were trying to camouflage by wearing your husband’s old college tee shirt in the first place.

But I’m nothing if not resilient; I wiped off my hands then tucked my shirt into my yoga pants and gave it another try. Other than the four times I almost passed out trying to breath like the instructor said to breath, I felt pretty good. Yoga is actually quite relaxing and very empowering. When class is over, I feel like I could take on the world…or even a package of Pop Rocks.

Well, let’s not get crazy.