The Santanic Verses

In preparing for the Christmas festivities, I sat in my basement, after putting one child to sleep and passing off another into the comforting arms of my wife, and began wrapping presents. I focus on the absurdity of wrapping presents for my sons to give to my wife, making a mental note of the cost of these items to take out of their allowance when they are older. I then wrap the presents that I am giving to my sons.

Now, marriage has often been considered a fusing of customs, cultures, and bank accounts. The Christmas traditions that my wife and I are used to are as different as the Hatfields and McCoys and are equally deep-rooted in personal conviction. On my side of the family, Santa would leave presents in each child’s designated spot on the furniture, making the mad rush into the living room next to orgiastic. All of the gifts were there, in open view, and it was difficult for the brain to process all of the juvenile joy that these material things would bring us. My wife’s family had Santa wrap presents, because with all of the presents from siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and pets, not enough wrapping paper was wasted. Santa always had a specific type of wrapping paper which had to be superior to the crap paper Mom and Dad were using.

To me this took all of the joy out of the experience. But, as with most things, we have to make concessions in our marriage. When I say “we” I mean “I” and when I say “concessions” I mean “a complete surrender”. So, Santa wraps gifts. I was murmuring over this idea when I realized that a present I happened to be wrapping for Zach was mistakenly wrapped in Santa’s special paper. I uttered a word that will probably put me on the naughty list and left the present there, determined that I would give the present as is, Santa paper and all.

My wife, as they tend to do, had her own ideas. She graciously re-wrapped the present for me, despite my scientific claims that our child was two and that there is no way in the world he would see the present, see the tag “From: Daddy”, see the distinctive Santa paper, and say “Wait a second. Why… hey! I’m on to you two!” My wife reminds me that little Zachary is very observant. I wonder how observant he has been as we have led him through the virtual potpourri of Santas during the Christmas season.

The first Santa that Zach experienced was by far the most Santa-esque. You know what they say, your first is always your best. This is, or course, always in reference to the first Santa Claus you meet. This Santa was kind despite the screams he induced in my son and little nephew. He was completely suited up and sported a real beard. We took the screaming children from his lap, and I swear that as I got close to him, there was a visible twinkle in his eye. Just above his oversized belt, there might have even been a shaking similar to a bowl full of jelly, though that may have been my imagination.

The next year, Santa happened to be visiting the Valley Fair Mall. For those of you not familiar with this establishment, it is the virtual Mecca for people that you don’t want your children to talk to, ever. It does not have the traditional mall stores like The Gap or Banana Republic. Instead, they offer shopping selections like The Shotglass Hut, Plastic Dragon’s Asian Craporium, Tie-One-On-Your-Arm-Until-You-Find-A-Vein, and the Banana Hammock. The Santa that visited this mall was obviously recruited from amongst its patrons. He began by chiding my sister and I for trying to calm our kids down, and then barked at our children to stop crying since Santa had such a headache. His beard was real and I believe there were also chunks of real kipper snacks in there. He refused to smile, and instead looked despondently at the camera with an expression that said “Please make this Christmas season end so that I can get back to touring with my Grateful Dead tribute band.”

This year, the Santas have been prevalent indeed. We went to one at a different mall where the mute Santa quietly held Zachary and Baby Isaac on his lap while the methadone wore off. Santa came to a neighbor’s house while Zachary was visiting, but could not steal the attention away from the train set that my son was invested in. After several “Ho, Ho, Ho” ‘s and me begging, “Zach, turn around and look who is here to see you.” He finally did look, but with an expression of “Yeah, I’ve seen you before. You know I want a tambourine. Now let me get back to this sweet train.” He went to a Santa who shed his red coat and wore what looked like a set of penguin pajamas. This entire array of sweet and unsavory Santas, and our little boy was none the wiser.

My wife called me up at work today and began the conversation “Hi, is this Santa.” I had no idea what to do with myself in a conversation like this. I wondered if I was supposed to speak to my wife like Santa, as she continued to talk in an over-exaggerated tone on the phone to me. “Zachary has been very naughty and said he doesn’t want any presents this year! Just thought that I would let you know!” Apparently, Zach had been running around purposefully engaging in naughty behavior and willfully remitting his name from Santa’s nice list. My wife requested that I talk to him like Santa, but with my co-workers all around my cubicle, I did not quite feel like summoning up the old jolly elf. Instead, I found another worker to call back and, in the voice of St. Nick, scold my child for his disruptive behavior. The effect was immediate, and, for now, my son is pretending to be a good little boy until Santa makes with the goods tonight.

We have gone through three years of Christmas together with little Zach. He is becoming so intelligent that we fear he will outsmart us, even on something where we parents traditionally control the misrepresentation. We worry that he will figure out the truth one of these days, perhaps in finding a fresh roll of Santa’s special wrapping paper in the closet or waking up to find his parents sneaking about the house with gifts. But, for now, we are content enough to find ways to put smoke in mirrors and propagate a deception that would make David Copperfield proud. Wait, he’s Jewish. There isn’t any sneaking around involved in lighting the Menorah. Lucky Jews. They know what “Tradition” means. Just ask Tevya. I bet he would make a great Santa.


Kara Thacker said...

Just wait till you have to worry about the tooth fairy too! Add another fictious being into your household you have to pay for and play David Copperfield on a light sleeper! You are too funny! Good luck!

Amy H. (bird geek) said...

Your description of Valley Fair Mall killed me! It is a bizarre mix of hoodlum stores. I keep waiting for Macy's to just put up a fence between itself and the rest of the mall.

Amy H. (bird geek) said...

P.S. Your wife is 100 percent correct. Santa gifts are ALWAYS wrapped, and they're wrapped in paper that's distinct from the parental paper. Sorry!