A True Story
The winter of '54 was a cold one on the Washington coast, the kind of winter kids applaud and adults cuss. I had one year of pure freedom left before starting first grade and, although I suffered vague misgivings about leaving home at the early age of six, it seemed as far off in the future as heaven or hell, neither of which carried a tenth the seasonal weight of Christmas.
Parents and spirit beings of either persuasion might well have been jotting down each and every Sunday school transgression but, as I and every other child knew, Santa drove the sleigh.
That being the case, all one had to do was adhere to a short list of rules: Don't hit your brothers, don't swear, obey your parents as if you were encephalic, say your prayers each night, say, "Yes, sir," and "Yes, ma'am," to every human being on the f__king planet who was more than ten days older than you, be nice to dear Uncle Bruno and Auntie Phlebitis (even if you did hear Daddy uncharitably refer to them as a couple of miserable peckerwoods last week), and so on and so forth, and the rules ground on and those of us with attention spans commensurate with our educations (which is to say innocently illiterate), opted for Blanket Order Number One.
Blanket Order Number One, although written down nowhere, could be quoted verbatim by any child of religious upbringing the wide world over. It went like this: "Thou Shall Not Get Caught!" That was it! All the freeze dried morality in the entire comprehensible universe reconstituted into five simple syllables. For Santa, it seemed, took umbrage only at such evil doings as were reported to him by adults, and what they didn't know he wouldn't hear about!
The child's mission in life was, thus, clear; aside from personal Christmas wish lists, one's sacred duty lay in seeing to it that parents knew nothing at all. Such blasphemies as spitting on the sidewalk, cursing, or extending a solitary equatorial phalange to innocent passers by, which would have been swiftly reported to headquarters in previous epochs by a sorrowful (but righteously indignant!) older brother, ("I'm sorry, my son, but it's for the good of your soul,") were now judiciously overlooked. Right was right, but this was war.
Despite having the shortest days of the year, December hours struggled past in single file; time drags when you're being good. For as every child knew (and, again, the theorem was never publicly propounded), there is an inverse relationship between time and righteousness which goes like this: The apparent length of any given day is automatically increased by a factor of four the nicer you have to be to those you despise. As an addendum, it swiftly became apparent that the nicer one had to be to those they loathed the more of them they had to put up with at any given time.
As the great day lurched laboriously closer, however, all such equations became splotched and smeared and eventually ran together like watercolors in the rain. On the day before the day before Christmas, every rightly constructed child's emotional state had one or more counties in it which would have qualified as emotional super fund cleanup sites had an EPA existed at that time. We'd been as good to as many for as long as was humanly possible and the earthly dams of self control and moral restraint began buckling.
There were just a few trickles at first, a quick Camel cigarette appropriated from my father's pack when he wasn't looking (I'd sworn off tobacco several weeks before Christmas but the strain of total abstinence had become well nigh unbearable), a stealthy "Ah, shit," when a younger sibling lost his favorite shooter in a game of marbles, and even his highness, older brother Bruce, was moved on more than one occasion to mutter "Oh, chicken poop!" when asked to perform one of the many meaningless tasks which parents seem so adroit as assigning. The end was near and it was none too soon.
If one more centimeter of goodness had been forcibly extracted from my tortured soul it would've been bled lily white but, finally, it really was the night before Christmas.
Visions of sugar plums aside, I was exhausted. Being good for so long had robbed my natural sinfulness of all its native vitality. It would, I felt, take at least a year of uninhibited self indulgence to repair the damage... and why wait? It was 9:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, Santa was on his way, the goodies were in transit and, during one of my semi daily reconnaissance missions through the kitchen, I had discovered a large cache of Christmas candy. I had also seized one of the tastiest of these bags and hidden it under my mattress. Under cover of darkness, I had intended to devour the entire contents at my leisure but, alas, I was overcome at the crucial moment by the spirit of the season.
I selflessly offered to share my ill gotten booty with my older brother and had asked the great Bruce if he thought Santa would overlook the dubious methods by which it had been obtained so long as it was shared with those less fortunate (and larcenous). With the kindness and diplomacy which so characterizes youth the world over, my brother informed me that I had nothing to worry about. Santa Claus didn't exist.
It was easily 11:00 p.m. at this juncture but I fled for sanctuary down the long, dark hall to my parents' room, burst through the door and yelled, "Mom! Dad! Brucie says there's no Santa Claus! He's lying, isn't he? Please say he's lying! There is too a Santa Claus... isn't there?" For the next several hours, Santa was explained away as a rite of passage. One of those quaint, cultural baptismals little children get dunked in. But when the ceremony was over, it was over. Forever. One got on with life, that was how life was...
Without Santa, I no longer had to worry about storing up goodness for Christmas days; they would never come again. Nor would I ever again have to attempt the impossible task of staying awake all night on the twenty-fourth of December in hopes of catching a fleeting glimpse of the elusive elf. And never again would I totally trust my parents' word on issues which seemed too good to be true.
Chapter 2 If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site, or any comments,
email me at:
CLICK HERE FOR EMAIL ADDRESS.
Back to "Painful Truth" menu.
The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright ©
1997-2010 by The Painful Truth. All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without prior written consent.