Santa always seemed a little creepy to me.
From sweaty department store Santas to the thought of some guy sneaking into my house through the chimney – yeah, a bit freaky. Of course I wanted the presents. And Mom and Dad so obviously wanted us to enjoy the surprise of it all. In our family, we went beyond leaving Santa cookies and milk. We left him an entire bottle of Pepto-Bismal and a spoon. For the massive tummy ache he must get from all the cookies and milk and flying around the world. And Santa must have appreciated this gesture because a little bit of the pink stuff always remained on the spoon after he took his prescribed dosage. But there was that one Christmas Eve night.
Every year our family went Christmas shopping at Edison’s and Montgomery Ward in downtown Fort Worth. My sister and I always looked forward to this trip. We especially loved to look at all the jewelry we would never dream of buying. Just for the fun of it. And except for a few gifts, like the box of cigarettes we got every year for Daddy Ray, or things we ordered from the Sear’s catalog, we would get most of our family’s Christmas shopping knocked out in one fell swoop. The Year of the Candy Cane Note, my sister and I picked out some super cute animal hand puppets in Montgomery Ward’s. When we were done shopping my sister and I went back to the car with Mom, Daddy stayed inside to pay for our purchases … and I was old enough to get suspicious.
That’s when I devised the Candy Cane Note plan.
I methodically wrote a list of questions Santa was to answer, complete with yes-no checkboxes and a signature line. He had to verify his identity to my satisfaction. It was all very official. I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up. I secretly slid the handwritten note into an empty plastic candy cane and hung it on our Christmas tree just before bedtime on Christmas Eve. And on Christmas morning those hand puppets showed up in our living room from Santa. (I knew it!) But the note … yep, it was undisturbed, the questions unanswered, not even a signature.
I had single-handedly solved the mystery of Santa.
My insides said it was a proud moment. But I was surprised that I also felt sad. Sad and disappointed that I had been right. I remember sitting on the couch next to Mom and wondering if I should tell her about the note.
I felt gullible and stupid.
Like I was the last person on earth to know this truth. To this day I hate to be the last one to know things. I guess it’s just my personality – or human nature. But somehow, sitting there on our couch with Mom, I also felt that I should not let my parents know that I ‘knew’. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe I was too embarrassed to admit that I had been fooled.
Maybe I just figured it was time to grow up.
I have always been a realist. Never the dreamer. So whatever the reason, it doesn’t really matter. I was the youngest, the cat was out of the bag, time to move on. I had interrogated Santa, and he had failed the test. Of course he had, he wasn’t a real person. Some part of me wanted him to be real … but a bigger part just wanted to know the truth.