Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Santa Does Exist

The day my Daddy told me he was Santa Claus, he didn't shatter my innocence; he shifted an image.

@ezstreet on Instagram
"No More Lies"



Perusing Instagram I stumbled upon a picture of a woman face to face with her daughter. The daughter's fingers touched slightly in a steeple, a common position of prayer.  And the caption read: I dare u to look into your childs eyes and tell them "I Am Santa Claus". 

Barring the obvious grammatical errors in the meme—my BFF editor is cringing right now that I chose to leave it captioned authentically—I was transported to a time in my life when I first learned that My Daddy was Santa Claus.

I was no older than the little girl in this picture, my sister was barely a toddler.  That Christmas morning, our living room floor was cluttered from gifts.  I don’t know if I was good or not that year, but Santa was surely good to me.  I reveled in the dolls, toys, bike, clothes and anything else I imagined. 



I picked up a toy that I was particularly thrilled with.  Today, I don’t recall what it was.  I remember the exhilaration I felt that I received exactly what I requested.  I grabbed my new favorite and ran into the kitchen.  Daddy was eating his normal eggs over easy, country sausage and toast.  My mother was at the sink, tidying up the pots and pans she used to make breakfast.  I jumped up and down and shouted, “Look!  Mommy look at what Santa got me!”  My father broke the yoke of his eggs and without looking up or missing a beat he exclaimed, “I’m Santa Claus.”

My father has a looming voice.  One that doesn't have to be raised to elevate a brow.  I must have stopped mid-jump.  I looked at my mother and without shock or disappointment, she affirmed my Dad’s statement, at first with a nod, then verbally.  “That’s right.  Daddy is Santa Claus.”  I thought for a moment, looked between the two of them going on about the day as usual with a mere touch of excitement for Christmas and verbally concluded, “Well if Daddy is Santa Claus then you’re Mrs. Claus!  Thanks Santa!”  I ran to my Dad, gave him a big ol’ bear hug and bopped away to open my remaining presents. 

From that day on and until adulthood when I’d assist my mother in wrapping gifts I’d sign the note card, ‘Love Santa.’  If the gift was from my Mom I would sign, 'Love Mrs. Claus'.

To learn that my Daddy was Santa Claus filled my soul with glee.  Knowing that my Dad is Santa confirmed other truths like: I knew I’d never be forgotten; I would always be protected and we were.  If by chance, fewer gifts had to show up that year—they never did—they had the option to explain that I wasn’t discriminately discarded by some bearded stranger.  Mom and Dad, I mean Santa and Mrs. Claus may have had to make adjustments.  My Dad was already my hero but in that moment he became my Super-Hero.

Upon my return from Christmas break, my new-found joy was momentarily interrupted.  Armed with a new secret to adulthood, I sought to tell only my five year-old very best friends that the White bearded man with the big belly was a fake, a lie.  He wasn’t real.  Well, my very best friends turned into the entire class and my teacher had a catastrophe on her hands.  Thirty, five year-olds erupted tears like lava from the Ring of Fire.  Worlds were now shattered because they learned what I knew. There was no Santa Claus, at least like the one on TV.  I was reprimanded and my parents were called in.
 
I felt terrible.  I had done a bad thing.  My father showed up, had a discussion with the teacher.  Later I would learn that he did not and would not apologize for his child’s enlightenment.  He didn’t make me apologize to the class and left the burden of either truth or fiction with the children’s parents.  My parents never scolded me and forbade my teacher from doing so any further. 

Well into my teens, I asked my Dad why he dispelled the myth of Santa so early in our lives.  He replied, “… Because I didn’t want my children believing that some old White man slid down a chimney and gave you all of this that your Mama and I worked so hard for.”  I got it, nothing else needed to be said.   

Now, I acknowledge the counter to this discussion.  Why shatter a child’s innocent existence and infiltrate that child’s being with the dogmatic reality of adult issues of the world?  For a White child, Santa is an image that is an extension of the belief of personal privilege and preference.  For a child of color, even if you travel light years away to ensure that his face is painted brown, knows that their Santa the one that looks like them is a substitute.   And until truth is revealed that child of color, is left to decipher the image of one outside of themselves, their tribe who may or may not bestow favor upon them. If favor is not supported in other areas of their lives from people who resemble the traditional image underneath the red suit, that same child must quickly discern and separate fairy tale from reality, whether you believe it is time or not.  You say, children don’t think like that.  They don’t until they have to. 

Some accuse my parents of dissolving the magic of a time so precious in a child's life.  Don't weep for me.  The joy of the culture didn't dissipate.  Every year I watched the movies, Rudolph and Frosty are still my favorites.  

But don’t worry.  Unlike in my younger years, your children won’t hear from me, the news that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.  I don’t advocate you spilling the beans either.  Santa and Mrs. Claus do exist.  I know because my parents told and showed me so.

How do or have you handled your child's belief about Santa or any other fairy tale?  When is an appropriate time for truth.

This is Toni Staton Harris Checkin' Up and Checkin' In on Fairytales vs. Reality.

2 comments:

  1. Great post, Toni, and you know I cringed.

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  2. I loved this, I enjoyed the visual of your father sitting at the table Christmas morning. Reminded me of my granddaddy. Great read!

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