Sunday, December 21, 2014

Yes, Stephanie, There is a Santa Claus (And He’s a Capitalist)

I never caught my mommy kissing Santa Claus, but the two of them did seem to spend a lot of time on the phone. They were definitely tight. As Christmas drew near, my mother would say to me, “Oh, Santa called today. He wanted you to know that a lot of kids want a Slinky this year so you might have to wait until after the holiday to get one.”

“Santa would visit after Christmas?” I asked.

“No, he’s too busy getting ready for the next year but he’ll see it gets to you.”

One year mom said, “Santa called to talk about something you asked for but he also wanted to know if you wanted a doll this year. I’ve told him before that you usually ignore your dolls after a week or two. He says he has some really special books this year.”

Tiny narcissist that I was I basked in the glow of Santa’s tender concern for the quality of my Christmas. It didn’t seem strange to me at all that Santa took time to call my mother at work.

Then there was the year I saw the Casper the Friendly Ghost Christmas cartoon. Casper was busily getting gifts together for poor children. I was disturbed by it and turned to my mother after it was over.

“Santa doesn’t visit poor kids?”

There was a flash of something, perhaps panic, in my mother’s eyes.

“Why wouldn’t he visit poor kids?”

My mother sighed. “Well, Santa does have to be paid.”

“The milk and cookies aren’t enough?" (The father of one of my friends saw that Santa got a single malt Scotch)

The fact that “the right jolly old elf” demanded money was shocking to me. My parents weren’t rich and I always got quite a few Christmas gifts. One year I got both Barbie and Chatty Kathy.

In fairness to my mother, I have to admit that she staunchly denied ever telling me that Santa had to be paid. She would counter my accusation by reminding me that I had accused her of killing my first childhood pet, Kippy, a parakeet. I don't remember that at all.

I did finally get her to admit there wasn’t a Santa Claus.

“Are you upset?” she asked.

“I guess not,” I said. Some clueless doctor had told my parents that my disability made me "frail and high strung" so I always tried not to get upset.

Years later I was doing a psychotherapy session with the single father of a little boy.

Little Tommy wanted to discuss his Christmas list. Dad was saying he couldn’t have everything on the list. He handed me the list. In one column was the name of the toy, in the second column, its price.

No one had to tell him that Santa expected money.

© 2014 Stephanie Patterson

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