A long time ago, in a Podunk far, far away many Christmases ago…there lived I. As a child I deeply believed (and wished to believe) in MAGIC. Christmas was very special to me because of the inherent magic that surrounds it. Wishes, hopes and dreams and a time of wonder that felt like bolts of energy as I walked through the malls and stores brought me a feeling of happiness and joy.
Because I had been abused from age 4 to 9, Christmases were more like a life-line, a recharging of belief in mankind. I was out of school over the winter breaks and these were breaks I sorely needed and took great joy in the comfort of my home. And then there was the man, Santa.
Santa was perhaps the one adult outside of my parents that I trusted completely. I would write to him and I was lucky enough to have him answer my letters and he rarely forgot my requests. I can’t describe the exuberance on Christmas eve as I tried to sleep, anticipating his arrival and waking up on Christmas morning to find a plethora of presents under the tree in our modest house.
Then it happened. I was out of the private school and in the public system. I had survived the abuse and no longer had to tolerate the church services. You see, for me the church celebrations had usually involved me being abused in some manner since I was an alter boy – whether it was sexual contact during the changing of clothes, or a beating because I giggled when the priests performed the Eucharist. At any rate, I was free of the ritual abuse. But sadly, in my parents eyes, I was also growing up.
Growing up as a child during Christmas is bitter sweet. Each year, the tree seems a little less bright, and the shine on the decorations dulls just a little. Family tensions seem to be higher, and the peace and joy that is piped through the mall speakers doesn’t seem to carry over during heated Christmas meals as judgements take over from goodwill. And then there is Santa.
When I was released from the private school, my mind was more like a puree of emotions that I could not make sense of. My trust was shattered. I was getting older, and Santa seemed to miss me altogether that year. I didn’t know what was happening. I knew I didn’t want this to happen again. For a year I pondered his very existence. I knew in my heart he had to be real. Yet, he missed me. This was not going to happen again, I thought. The following year I went to the mall to speak with him. Yet, his beard did not seem real. His boots looked like shoes with plastic tops on them to appear as boots. His white hair seemed to be somehow darker underneath. I told him what I wanted. He seemed to listen, but I knew this was not the REAL Santa. The real Santa looked more like he did on the Coca-Cola bottles. I had told the mall Santa that I wanted a Mr. Spock action figure. I didn’t share this with my parents. I wanted to see what would happen. My plan was to see if it showed up then I would have proof the man was real. I waited, and thought about it, and became more nervous over time. What IF I didn’t get it? What would that mean? It was simple. It meant that magic (as I knew it) would not exist. This worried me more and more. I had to take action. One morning I took a bus to the big department store in Hopeless. I had some Christmas money and did my shopping, making sure I did not spend too much. I was happy with my purchases – a wallet for my Dad (he must have had a hundred wallets by then) and a scarf for my Mom (she also must have had a hundred of those). My half-sister was not there as she was always running away by then (I would find out later she had also been abused at my school, but she chose drugs and running away as her coping mechanisms). I made sure that I had enough money left to take care of some business for me. I went to the toy department and found a Mr. Spock action figure. I was not only able to buy him, but also to have the toy professionally wrapped. You see, I had noticed that the Santa gifts from the previous year were of the same wrapping paper as the gifts my parents were giving. I wanted this toy wrapped up completely different. It had to stand out. I still remember the wrapping paper – it was blue and white with silver holly and a blue metallic bow. It looked amazing. I was able to bring it home discreetly and now my plan was in action.
It was a week until Christmas day. I started talking to my parents about the magic of Christmas and how great Santa was. I told them how I had been to the mall and asked Santa for something really special. I laid it on thick. I needed there to be magic in my life, and I was going to create it if it had to be so.
I was so nervous on Christmas Eve. I hung my stocking diligently. I hung my stocking near the fireplace. We never really followed the stocking tradition, but I made an effort to let everyone know I was hanging one the night before. We ended the evening by watching some late night SCTV. SCTV was a Canadian comedy television show that launched the careers of Andrea Martin, John Candy, Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, Katherine O’Hara, Martin Short, to name a few. It was my favourite show back then. I made it very clear to my parents that i was going to bed and said my goodnights to them both. Once in my room I had to make sure I stayed up late enough to get my present under the tree (I had previously placed my parent’s presents under it, but I had to get my special one there without it being noticed. In order to stay awake I put encyclopedias on the bed and laid on top of them, covering myself with them so I stay awake and still have them hidden should my parents check in on me to make sure I was sleeping. I dozed on and off during the night. At around three in the morning I crept out of my room with my present in hand. It had been pre-labeled by the woman who wrapped it for me – “To Nicholas, Love Santa”. I placed it near the back of the tree as the multi-color bulbs cast a glow in the dark living room. I looked at my stocking. It was empty. I didn’t want it to be that way so I put an orange inside and found a couple candy canes to add to the bounty. Content that my job was done, I returned to my room and took the books off the bed and fell fast asleep.
I didn’t sleep too long. I was up and ready for the day by 8am. I was the first one up – as kids normally are on such days. I rushed into the room to see if perhaps, perhaps there was something more – maybe other presents from the jolly man himself. Nothing. Mine was the last trek to the tree during the night. I felt a sombre twinge of adult reality within my little body. Yet I also felt excited to see my plan unfold.
When my parents were up we settled in the living room to open the gifts. It was always sad when my half-sister was not with us – not for me, but for the sadness I sensed within my Mother. Don’t ever believe that kids don’t notice these things. I did. I could feel behind her smile she was worried where on earth her daughter could be. Having children now, I can only imagine how painful it would be for her each day without knowing where her daughter was. I tried to comfort her and my Father. I tried to make them smile, to think about other things – to find some happiness in our immediate triad of family. And I am sure they did.
My Father masked his indifference of yet another wallet very well. My Mother likewise managed to convince me she was pleased with her white and red polyester scarf. I was happy with my gifts that consisted of Electronic Battleship, A Hoth playset, and a CLUE boardgame. My Mother was the one who noticed the blue wrapped gift behind the tree. I played dumb, and was summoned to retrieve it. I handed it to her. She looked a little confused then looked at my Father, a little surprised. “It’s for you from Santa”, she said. She handed it to me and I opened it in front of it. I exclaimed how I had asked Santa for it at the mall and he must have listened. My parents looked a little bewildered. Perhaps, even for a second – a nanosecond – there was a glint of belief – of real magic. Recently I discussed this with my Mother, now in her eighties. She couldn’t remember that moment. Of course she couldn’t. Christmas was not a lot of fun for her – she was always the one who had to cook for the entire extended family – prepare and bake for days leading up to Christmas dinner, wrap the gifts, pick up emergency gifts should someone unexpected drop in. Christmas was exhausting for her. Her own family rolled over her on such occasions. And to top it off, not knowing where or if her little girl was would be enough to break anyone. Not my Mom. She truly soldiered on.
It was then that I started to believe in magic, and making magic happen for others. Is there a Santa Claus. Yes. Definitely. In our house I write to Santa along with my children, and Santa brings to me along with my children. His wrapping paper is different than ours. His tags are different. My children still find wonder in the months leading up to Christmas. Santa blesses us. We are fortunate to have it this way. Yes they will grow up. Each year passes quicker than the last. They will stop believing in a year or so. But one day (should I be so blessed) they will have families of their own. They will write to Santa with their children and share in the wonder of the moment. For time is fleeting, and magic is wonderful and healing. They will experience the wonder through their children and Santa will continue to live strong through them.
That Christmas in Hopeless, was special to me – make no mistake. There was a twinge of sadness, but I learned that I could make magic happen, if only for a second. That experience began the shift in not waiting for things to happen, but to take charge and meet them head on.
I love Christmas – the spirit of Christmas. I will have a magical one. I no longer have Mr. Spock – but I just found his crewmates – though I have no idea where Dr. McCoy’s pants ended up. I am sure I will find Mr. Spock. He would say what I did was not logical. It may not be, but it sure felt right. Merry Christmas, Happy Festimas, or simply Happy Holidays to you. However you spend it, take a second – a nanosecond – to create a little magic for someone or yourself. You’ll be surprised to see how it can be contagious.