Once there was a poor man who had 3 daughters, they were getting closer to “coming of age” and the man had no dowry for any of them. It was thought, at the time, that if one couldn’t marry off their daughters, the daughters had no choice other than becoming prostitutes. The night before the eldest daughter’s birthday Saint Nicholas tossed a bag of gold into the man’s house. The next morning the bag of gold was found and the man was able to marry his oldest daughter off because he had a proper dowry to send with her. A year or so later when the middle daughter was about to have her birthday, Saint Nicholas, again, tossed a bag of gold into the man’s house and the man was able to marry his 2nd daughter off as well. By the time we get to the 3rd daughter the story varies. Some stories tell of the man lying in wait and catching St. Nicholas tossing the bag of gold into the man’s house, other stories go in other directions. St. Nicholas was an actual person. Santa Claus is a fictional and enhanced version of St. Nicholas. Bottom line (to me), St. Nicholas is the spirit of giving without recognition, without expecting anything in return. Giving to make someone else happy, if not happy then at least better off.
It completely never dawned on me, growing up, that we didn’t get Christmas presents from our parents. Didn’t notice it, didn’t miss it, apparently I was just overwhelmed with the whole Christmas thing to ever give it a thought. My parents put all their efforts into Santa Claus. There were never any wrapped gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. Everything under the tree on Christmas was already all set up and ready to go. If things needed to be assemble, they already were. If things needed batteries, they already had them. For a little kid it was like walking into a toy store, it felt like magic. The Santas in my house would group things together so there was never any doubt on what was left for who. We’d see Claudette’s things over there, Robert’s things over there, Bernadette’s things over there and, oh my! Did Santa really leave me that!?! Nothing short of fabulous and magical for a kid, seeing everything at once.
When I was in 2nd grade Bernadette told me that our parents were Santa Claus, of course I didn’t believe her. She took me to my parents closet. What we saw in there was pretty much all the things we’d written to Santa for. I still didn’t believe her. After Christmas morning I checked my parent’s closet again. Heavy sigh. Okay, I believe you. I never told my parents that I “knew”. We never had that conversation. I have no idea how long they thought I believed. I just know that I had liked believing much better than pretending to not know.
Skip ahead to where I’m the parent , I had followed my parent’s tradition of having everything displayed, set up and ready to go. Although, once I became a single parent I became a little selfish. My kids each got one gift from me. Apparently I’m just not as pious as St. Nicholas. I worked my ass of and I did want a little thanks. Sucks to say but I wanted a little recognition for all of my hard work.
Sometime after Christmas, when Shannon was in 3rd grade, she told me that some kids at school had said that there wasn’t a Santa. Bad math on my part, I thought that since I’d found out in 2nd grade, Shan would be ready to find out in 3rd grade. I had forgotten that I hadn’t wanted to know and I didn’t yet know that sometimes kids ask things before they want to know the answer.
Shannon and I had a private conversation and I told her about St. Nicholas and that Santa may not really exist as a chubby guy in a red suit, but he really did exist in St. Nicholas’ spirit. The spirit of giving. I told her that anyone, anyone could be Santa slash St. Nicholas if they gave without expecting anything in return. I think she was disappointed and I think I could have waited another year.
The next year when Christmas came around I figured that since Shannon knew the story, that she could be my elf. I asked her if she’d like to, she was in. As usual we got home late on Christmas Eve and I put all the kids to bed with special instructions to Shannon to stay awake. Once the younger two kids were asleep I got Shannon out of bed and the two of us made, I don’t know how many, trips down and up the 32 stairs to the garage to collect the “Santa” gifts. A lot of kid’s are huge so somethimes we could only carry one thing at a time. We opened everything, set everything up, put batteries in anything that need any and displayed the lot in three separate areas. One for Shan, one for Alex, one for Samantha. Okay, the really fun part of not wrapping “Santa” presents is getting to try them out :o) We had a great time together doing that. I loved having an accomplice, so to speak.
The next morning Shannon was the greatest actress this world has seen yet. Although she and I had played with absolutely everything the previous evening, she pretended, each and every, time that Samantha and Alex HAD to show her something amazing that it was the 1st time she had ever seen it. She really was truly amazing. She continued as my elf for the couple years and always feigned surprise when she was asked to “watch this” by one of her siblings.
I think it was when she was in 6th grade, at Christmas time, that my sister, Claudette, called and asked if I had any money she could borrow as she’d lost her wallet and it had everything in it, check book, credit cards, the works. I did have a little and she was coming over to get it. Guessing I mentioned it because Shannon ran into her room and gathered every cent she had and brought it to me and instructed me to give it to Claudette and to not let Claudette know that it came from Shannon and that she did not want it back even if Claudette had found her wallet/checkbook, whatever. Proud moment in a mom’s life, Shannon “got it”, the spirit of St. Nick.
When Alex was in 4th grade and we were sitting at the kitchen table and were reading a cloth book of Santa he mentioned “mom, I can tell that Mrs. Claus made this because it’s sewn”. I was already wondering about him. That statement let me know that he still believed hook, line and sinker. He was 10. I didn’t want anyone making fun of him or picking on him if he spouted that Santa was real. I don’t know where my daughters where but they were no where nearby, so I told him. I explained the same as I did to Shan, that it may not be a chubby guy in a red suit but it was still very real as long as one can give without expecting recognition or anything in return. Too cute. I still remember the perplexed look on his face and then he turned away and pondered things. I could see the wheels turning in his head. It took 20 minutes or so before his eyes got really big and he turned towards me and said “Oh no! Mom! What about the Easter Bunny!?!”. That year Alex got to be the elf. Got home late on Christmas Eve, as usual, put the kids to bed with special instructions to Alex to stay awake. Once I was sure that Samantha was sleeping I went into his room and he was sleeping as well. I didn’t want to make the decision for him so I roused him enough to ask if he still wanted to be my elf. He said yes so we made the flight 32 steps down and back once and he ooohed and ahhhed at this and that and then was back in bed, asleep, before the 2nd trip downstairs.
Shannon and Alex did a great job on keeping their little sister out of the loop. When Samantha was 10 she and I went to see Santa and we each, separately, had our photos taken with him. That was at the mall. When we left the mall and got into the Target parking lot and had parked the car, I told her about St. Nick and Santa and the true spirit of Christmas. Never before, and never after has Samantha ever done this…she hit me. Apparently she was very disappointed, ya think? No, she didn’t cold-cock me, she punched my arm. She was not a happy camper. Once inside Target, I lent her money to buy some sort of talking something or other to try to bring her out of her blues. Samantha still went to bed sad that night. The next morning. it was a weekend, she woke up and asked me about poor kids. I told her about Toys For Tots, why we participated in Stuff The Bus every year, mitten trees at church, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, everything I could think of. The next day was a Monday and Samantha went to school and started collecting money for poor kids. Okay then, she got it.
I was hoping that by writing down these memories it might jump start me into getting into the Christmas spirit, that I so lack, this year. It didn’t. Guess I’ll have to think of something else.