man (and woman) behind Santa's sleigh
By Joey Hislop
December 15, 2006 | If you celebrate Christmas and
you're old enough to legally operate a motor vehicle
then you probably remember when you found out the crushing
truth that Santa Claus isn't real. If by reading this
you are just now discovering the truth for yourself
-- I'm sorry. How did your parents do it?
Anyway, I can recall my experience vividly. I was
either 10 or 11 years old and it had been a frustrating
Christmas for my parents. They must have run out of
hiding places for gifts or something because they began
using the back of the van for that purpose. It was kinda
sad to get into the van and have my mother tell us all
"don't look in back." I would act like I didn't know
what was going on. I guess I was in denial. I didn't
want to come to grips with the idea that my folks were
the ones who single-handedly pulled off Christmas every
That year my mother was also becoming more and more
annoyed by the indecision that had crept into my wish
list item elimination process. When she would ask me
what I wanted, it was harder for me to narrow it down.
This came as a result of years of not getting everything
on my list. Even though I had yet to discover the man
(and woman) behind the curtain, I had become wise to
the fact that Santa never brought you everything you
asked for. My poor mother. In the years after that my
indecision only got worse. It was probably around Dec.
20th that year when I came up with a final decision.
But despite the huge pile of wrapped gifts behind
the back seat and the fire that would appear in my mother's
eyes every time I would give her an "I don't know,"
I still hadn't really put it all together. Like most
other things in life, I had to be shown undisputable
first-hand evidence in order to be convinced.
I remember it was the twilight hours of Christmas
Eve and my bladder wouldn't let me rest. I had to go.
I had resolved to risk a run-in with Santa. Besides,
the bathroom was only a quick walk out my bedroom door.
Turn left and -- boom -- you're there. However, you
could see the entire upstairs hallway from the entrance
to the bathroom and as I walked out to go back to sleep,
I caught my mother in the middle of making what I knew
had to be a present run.
In her arms was a pile of objects, mostly indecipherable
under the wrapping paper. They were all wrapped with
that thick, glossy white paper that Santa always used.
I thought he must have had a contract with Weyerhaeuser
or something. Every year presents from Santa were wrapped
in that same stuff and signed by a woman who I was told
to be "Mrs. Claus" whose handwriting was almost identical
to that of my mother. Hmmm...
Anyway, I saw my mother and she saw me. But she didn't
get mad. She gave me a look that seemed to say "Can't
sleep, pumpkin'?" I thought I was in trouble for sure,
but I was surprisingly mistaken. Then I saw my father
doing the same thing: going from the living room to
the basement in a hurried frenzy like he was getting
the room ready for the home teachers.
I returned to my room a little sad. I thought to myself
You mean to tell me that it's all a farce? missing
completely the true meaning of what was now exposed
to be a lie. I was more weighed down by guilt than anything.
It was the kind of guilt that you get when you come
to the realization that your existence makes some people's
lives harder. Mom & Dad really are Santa Claus! They
buy all the toys themselves.
I remembered how over the years mom and dad would
make up ways to explain things to me. They had some
pretty creative ideas, too. Everything from the classic
"We tell Santa and he gets the toys for us" to "Well,
Santa can't go to every house, so sometimes he sends
stuff in the mail." Boy, they had me going!
But, as the saying goes: you can't fool all the people
all the time. Not even kids. It was time to adjust my
thinking. From then on I would have to adapt my Christmas
list to fit what I thought mom and dad would go for.
Santa was now out of the equation. I was dealing with
real people, not some magical guy who lives in the uninhabitable
frozen tundra of the polar ice caps and drives an airborne
sleigh powered by wingless caribou.
I must admit that my mind was put a little at ease
by my new discovery. Now I could stop trying to wrap
my head around how Santa and his elves pull this off
every year. How they can manufacture and distribute
all this stuff across the globe in one night and do
so without being seen or without violating what must've
been thousands and thousands of patents on the toys
they make (which happen to be identical to the ones
found in stores). He buys all that stuff? Yeah, right!
With what money? Is it government subsidized? All that
didn't matter now. It was all a big fake.
The funny thing was that my parents didn't even try
to tell me to go back to bed. Looking back on it now,
they must've felt like I was old enough then to know
the truth. Since then I have often wondered why we don't
just tell kids the truth. Why don't we just tell them
about that Saint Nicholas guy from Turkey back in the
ump-teenth Century. You know who I'm talking about,
right? The guy who saved that other guy's daughters
from a life of prostitution by giving them some of his
own inheritance so that they could fetch good husbands,
or something? Wait, you're right. I can just see some
little kindergartener asking his teacher, "What's pros-ter-tution?"
On second thought, some things are best sugarcoated.