I'm pretty sure my mother is a liar. And her pants are on fire.
Not that I've seen flames shoot out from her arse cheeks or anything but my instincts are pretty sharp. And where there is smoke (figuratively speaking) there generally is fire. Shooting out from the arse.
(Here's where we all say hello to my mother and tell her how lovely she looks today. Hi Mom!)
My mom had one firm household rule as we grew up and it neared the holiday season.
You BELIEVED in Santa Clause or the fat man didn't come to your house.
(She also had a firm rule about not snooping and shaking any presents that were under the tree but my brother and I liked to believe that rule was flexible. As in, it only applied when my mother's eagle eyes would catch us.)
For eleven months of every year we were a fairly typical family. We kept our skeletons tucked firmly in the back of the closet and tried to keep our freak confined between the walls of our home. But come every December 1, my mother threw caution to the wind and barfed up some serious holiday spirit in every nook and cranny of our home.
We weren't terribly spoiled with gifts as my parents were far from wealthy, but my mom made it happen each and every year regardless of how empty or full her bank account was that year. We were spoiled with an abundance of home baked treats, an extravagantly decorated tree and enough festive decorations everywhere you looked that you could almost believe you were living in Santa's house itself.
For those thirty days of each December, growing up, Santa was alive.
I don't remember what age it was that I stopped believing but I do remember the look on my mother's face when I announced to her that I was on to her game. There is no such thing as Santa. I may as well have kicked her puppy and then told her she looked fat in her jeans. It would have been kinder. She took a second to compose herself and she looked me square in the eye and reminded me, "Tanis. Santa does not bring gifts to children who no longer believe in him."
I was about to open my mouth to argue when it finally dawned on me what she was saying.
Translation: "Kid, if you ruin this for your little sister I will make it my mission to ensure you never see so much as a lump of coal in your stocking for the rest of your days."
From that day on, Santa continues to live. And dammit, I believe. It's become a bit of a family joke how much we all believe in St. Nick when my mother is around. But I never did ruin it for my sister. I'm pretty sure some goober in her grade four class did that for her.
Then I had children. I've fed Santa's reindeer and there is always a plate of cookies and a glass of room temperature milk left out for the big guy himself.
My children have never questioned the veracity of Santa and I have taken great pains to ensure I'm not ever put in the same position I once put my mother in. Santa simply exists, dammit. Over the past few years there may have been some speculation but I was always able to channel my mother and strongly insist Santa only exists if you believe in him and then run for a dark corner to evade any further Christmas related questioning.
But my girl, she's 14. And she attends school with a bunch of delinquents. (My apologies to any towns people reading this. I'm not talking about your child. I swear. I'm talking about the other town kids.) And those delinquents are running around the school looking for Santa believers so they can herd them into small dark corners and pelt them with candy canes while ruining their childhood dreams.
Fric and I were driving home from a volleyball game and somehow, the subject of Santa was broached.
"Mom, some of the kids in my class say their parents have told them Santa doesn't exist any more and they don't get any presents from him under their tree."
I went still. And the look on my mother's face flashed before my eyes in the rear view mirror.
"Oh? Well what do they get under their tree? No presents at all then?"
"Oh no, they still get presents. But things like cash and gift cards. Just nothing from Santa."
"Well, you know what I always tell you. Santa only exists to the people who believe in him. So only the believers get presents from him. So I'm pretty sure as long as you still believe, he'll still keep you on his list." I'm dropping hints like raindrops in a hurricane.
I was pretty proud of myself for a moment, thinking I'd satisfactorily solved the Santa problem. Sometimes I impress even myself with my own parental naivety.
Fric was silent for a moment but she still looked puzzled. I was doing my best to keep my eyes on the road and pretend like her childhood dreams weren't about to evaporate in the middle of our car with the scent of day old fast food clinging in the air.
"But Mom. I still believe."
"I know you do honey. And I'm pretty darn sure Santa knows you still believe in his magic too."
"I mean, I still believe, but Mom, when does Santa stop bringing presents?"
"Stop? Well, he doesn't. He brings them for as long as there are people who believe in the magic of the season." At this point now, I'm running through all the Santa trivia 35 years of watching holiday movies has imparted on me. It was almost as though I could feel the ice cracking beneath my shoes.
"What age did he stop bringing you presents Mom?"
"What? Santa's stopped bringing me presents?" I cried out in great disbelief. Because I am an Academy Award winning actress. It says so on the resume I wrote in my head.
"Very funny. I never see any Santa presents under the tree for you. Or for Dad."
"Well, your father is a nincompoop who doesn't believe in the miracle of St. Nick. Never has. He's a bit of a grinch, I'm afraid," I mock whispered to her like it was some giant secret. As though 14 years of her watching her father roll his eyes at the mentions of Christmas, Santa or elves weren't big enough clues.
"Yes, but you believe. And still, no presents for you." She was staring holes through my soul at this point, I swear. I'd like to point out that in moments like this, I really, really appreciate my sweet non-verbal little boys.
I knew what she was driving at. She was like a poorly trained reporter, trying to steer me into dropping the sound bite she wanted, straight into her lap. I could feel her yank on my maternal ropes and the pressure to not screw up this parental moment was enormous. Which is stupid, because dammit, I don't lie to my kids. Ever. Except apparently, when it comes to f*cking Santa Clause.
"It's just, I don't want to wake up one morning and find no presents under my tree from Santa Clause even though I still really believe in him, Mom." Suddenly, she had puppy dog eyes. Damn, this kid is good.
"That won't happen, Fric. I promise." I mean, not as long as I'm alive anyways.
"Because there would be nothing sadder than when I move out into my very own apartment and am living all by myself, and I wake up on Christmas morning only to find no presents under the tree." My child and her first world problems. Oy.
It was time for a new tactic. Shame. "Well, Christmas isn't about presents you know. It's about giving and the spirit of love and family and Jesus Christ and whatever else the bible says."
"I know, right? But mom, what about when I have my own kids? Do I just believe so then Santa brings my kids presents? How will he know I even have kids? I don't want my kids not to get presents because there really isn't a Santa and I didn't know that and then no one gets presents. That would be horrible!"
She went there. She kicked my puppy and she dangled my unborn grandchildren before my eyes. She's officially killing me now. I'm suddenly feeling guilty for screwing up kids that aren't even a twinkle in her eye yet. Dammit.
"Well as long as your kids believe, Santa will find them. No worries about that, Fric." That'll be YOUR problem in what I hope will be no less than 15 years from now.
She eyed me steadily, and I could tell she was getting slightly irritated by my persistent avoidance technique. "All right, Mom. But since you aren't getting gifts from Santa any more that must mean he doesn't deliver to adults, even if they are believers." (No, honey, that's just because your father is cheap, I wanted to clarify.) "So what age will I be too grown up for Santa?"
And there it was. The long and short of it. All that cramming candy canes into tight spots and making me dance over a bed of hot coals for what amounts to one simple question.
I looked at her and I remembered my mother all those years ago.
"I'm pretty sure kid, that Santa will come see you until you are at least 18. Maybe even longer. He can't visit the adults who believe in him because then he wouldn't have time to deliver to the children who believe in him. So we adults, well, we take one for the team. But Santa only comes to children who believe in him and stop asking their mothers a bunch of irritating questions while she's trying to drive. Are we done?"
Translation: "Listen kid, as long as you keep your big trap shut and don't ruin this for your little brother Jumby (because I'm pretty sure Frac gave up the Santa ghost long before you) you'll keep getting loot under the tree. But you breathe one syllable of this conversation to any child who still believes in Santa and I will personally beat you senseless with a stocking filled with coal. Are you picking up what I'm putting down?"
Fric looked at me shrewdly and for a moment, I thought she may declare the fat man dead. Instead, she looked right into my eyes and declared, "No worries Mom. I believe in Santa."
Just as I exhaled a huge sigh of relief that this conversation was finally over and never to be repeated ever again and was reaching to turn on the radio, my lovely daughter leaned forward and whispered,
"Just so he knows, that new Star Wars wii game would be really cool for Christmas morning. And I've been a very good girl this year. Santa."
Thank God she never asked about the damn tooth fairy.