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.