I can’t remember a time when I ever believed in Santa. In their attempts to make everything rockwellian, my parents ruined it for me every Christmas. Santa’s arrival on Christmas Eve was preceded by far too much kitschy pomp in our household for even the most gullible of kids to believe in him.
Growing up, my father’s family tradition called for everything, and I do mean everything, to be done on Christmas Eve—except for cleaning up from the aftermath. That was saved for Christmas Day. Gift wrapping, cookie baking, assembling and decorating the tree, stuffing the stockings with an orange in the toe, nuts and unwrapped candies that stuck to the felt, and unwrapping the presents all had to happen in one ill planned evening.
Sound stressful? You bet it was for my poor mother and later, for anyone who got in the way of this not so joyful mayhem. Far too many years into this asininity, we questioned my dad’s relatives on the origin of this idea that nothing could happen until Christmas Eve and then everything had to happen at once. They had no clue where he got this idea. This was something he had trumped up all on his own. This revelation led to new, saner traditions. During my childhood however, the insanity reigned.
The first Christmas that I can remember, my parents had Mr. Johnson, our next door neighbour come over dressed as Santa. Now, Mr. Johnson was a very nice, kind man but he sure didn’t look like Santa with that poorly pasted on beard and scrawny little waist. I pretended not to be able to tell the difference. My feigned naiveté just encouraged them more.
The next year when I was snug in my bed with visions of this being the year I wouldn’t get those old fashioned hard candies in my stocking, stuck in my head, out in the kitchen there arose such a clatter that I knew Mom and Dad were up to their old tomfoolery again. Clomp, clomp, clomp, rattle, rattle, rattle. “Bye Santa!” Moments later they’d be at my bedroom door with their eyes all aglow. “Cara! You just missed him!” Right.
One year, it rained on Christmas Eve and they ran to the front door and looked skyward yelling, “Look, Santa has a big umbrella over his sleigh!” I’m not sure how many years we carried on this charade before I finally told them, “yeah, right.” What a relief.
But the tooth fairy, man that chick was real and I had the fairy dust to prove it. My dad designed, engraved and sandblasted monuments. As a result of the sandblasting, he walked around with a lot of steel shot in his pocket.
When I lost my third or fourth tooth, underneath my pillow the next morning lay, not just the spare change I was expecting, but silver, gritty glitter. This wasn’t the kind of glitter you can buy at the Dollar Store today. This was the real thing. It looked like it had been delicately chiselled from a rock. My parents were genuinely as surprised to find it as I was. “What’s this?” I asked in wonder. “Fairy dust,” they cleverly responded to my amazement. The tooth fairy became my hero, well, her and my 10 feet high imaginary friend Prink, but I’ll save him for another entry.