The Irrepressible St. Nick

I murdered Santa Claus shortly after Thanksgiving. It was not premeditated nor a crime of passion, and without malice aforethought, but done deliberately and with surgical precision, like lancing a boil, or ripping off a bandage. Truth be told, he was on life support anyway, the victim of youthful peer balloon poppers, who maliciously target those with resilient hopes and dreams, and feel motivated to discourage others to match their own flaccid attitudes.

So as, Santa lay there, on life support, pulse steadily weakening, I was asked for a prognosis. Seeing the end as inevitable and maybe even a little giddy over having a Santa-less Christmas, I leaned over and yanked the plug.

With a look of dismay on her face and even a gasp, I watched as my daughter’s belief in a mythical generous gift giver vanished into the mists of youthful beliefs. As I looked into the widening eyes of my daughter, I expected to see recognition, comprehension and most hopefully of all — acceptance. Instead, I found confusion, tinged with traces of despair.

Just to make sure the corpse would not rise off the table, and reach for my wallet, I decided to give the great nocturnal chimney flosser’s body a swift kick.

“You do understand, he was never real,” I said with as much solemnity as I could muster. “We bought, wrapped, and placed your presents under the tree.”

Then I recalled not so fond memories of late night hours trying to build a rocking horse, using instructions written in what passes for English in China, and with pictures whose meaning rivaled hieroglyphics.

“But, but,” she stammered, eyes tearing up. “What about the reindeer bells and written notes, the half-eaten cookies, and the pictures taken under the tree?”

“All me,” I said with a smile, quite proud of the all the covert Saint Nicking I had done to preserve the deception.

But instead of glorious revelation, my pronouncement met with a sullen glare. “Oh,” she said, and that was the end of it. Or so I thought.

A couple weeks later, as she perused the glossy adverts in the newspaper, I heard her say, “I wish Santa would get this for me.” She pushed the advert under my gaze and looked up hopefully. Apparently, you can take Santa out of Christmas, but not out of little girls.

“Honey,” I said. “Remember what I said. I’m Santa — or was Santa.”

She smiled and looked me square in the eye. “No, you’re not.”

With a furrowed brow, I stared. Denial is not just a river.

“So,” I said, my mind spinning quickly to come up with a response that might make sense. “You still want Santa to bring you presents?”

“Yes,” she answered emphatically, “and not just from him, Rudolph, Frosty and Buddy too.”

Buddy? “Buddy?”

“You know,” she looked side-ways, a knowing look on her face, “From the movie Elf.”

Ah, now we have ventured off the garden path into pink unicorn land. Without thinking too hard about it, I just nodded and smiled and gave my default answer to deranged fallopians, “Yes, dear.”

When I encountered my wife a short time later, I said, “She’s still wanting presents from Santa. Did she start on medication I am not aware of, or is she just psychotic?”

“She just does not want to let go of her imagination. Do we truly want her to abandon believing in what she can’t see?”

I hadn’t actually thought it through to the natural conclusion that so many of us adults come to, that such entertaining but childish ideas should be tossed into the landfill of childhood memories in favor of hard, cold and uncomfortable truths, which fence in and define the path of adulthood, taking children further and further away from the idyllic, warm, but intangible world of dreams and fantasies. Escapist and delusional it may be, but purposely grounding – no – chaining a child’s life to what adults believe is necessary, may be the real crime here. A child will let go of such thoughts and notions when they are ready. Do we need to rip them out of their hands and stomp upon them unmercifully? She has her entire adult life to experience having dreams and expectations shattered and dashed upon the hard rocks of reality. Why should I expedite the process?

Later I found her looking up at the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree.

“So, Miss Rachel,” I said with a wistful grin. “Have you been good this year?”

“Oh yes,” she replied. “Santa knows that too.”

“Indeed he does; Indeed he does.”

The Legend of the Toy Monster

My daughter Rachel has more toys than she knows what to do with. For the longest time, my wife and I picked up after her. However, we eventually expected her to pick them up herself. At first, she tried, but it became easier to kick toys under the bed, into the closet, or pile them up unceremoniously in corners of her bedroom.

One day I pulled her aside. “Honey, you need to keep your toys off the floor.”

“I don’t want to,” Rachel whined. “It’s too hard.”

“You must,” I replied, my voice a low growl, “or else . . ..”

Rachel pursed her lips. “Or else what?”

I scratched my head. “Uh, or you will lose them.”

Eyes wide and her lips quivering she asked, “Are you going to take them away?”

I stared past her when an idea sprang into my fevered mind. A notion so horrible and twisted, I had to use it. “No, but the toy monster might get them.”

Her mouth dropped open. “The what?”

“Oh yes,” I replied. “The toy monster loves messy toy-filled bedrooms. They attract him like raw meat attracts lions. He will start small, eating one or two a night, until they are all gone. Of course by then, he might decide he’s had enough of toys . . ..”

“And eat my clothes?” she asked trembling.

“That,” I smiled crookedly, “Or what wears them.” Muhahahahah.

Shrieks followed me out the door as I smugly walked downstairs to finish the paper. But even the threat of nocturnal doll munching couldn’t convince Rachel to keep her room tidy. Finally, after removing sharp, nearly microscopic doll shoes from the soles of my bare feet, I decided to release the beast.

“Dad, did you see my Holiday Barbie? I left her next to my dresser.”

I’m going to hell for this. Oh well. “Sorry honey, I haven’t seen her. How long was she lying on the floor?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe two days.”

Shaking my head, I said, “Just as I feared.”

“What do you mean?”

“Remember when I told you about the toy monster?”

“You mean he . . ..”

“Yup, after two days he figures you won’t notice, so he eats it.”

“That was my favorite dolly!”

“Well, next time you should keep your toys off the floor.” Sniffles followed. Oh, I am a bad parent. Muhahahaha.

Even the loss of a favorite toy did not change her behavior, so as the days followed, more toys disappeared, until finally . . ..

“DADDY,” came the unearthly howl.

“Yes dear,” I said as I appeared in Rachel’s doorway.

She stood in the center of the bedroom, hands in her hair. “MY TOYS! THEY ARE ALL GONE!”

Sure enough, the room had been surgically scrubbed of toys.

“Uh oh,” I replied. “He’s eaten everything that means . . ..”

Face the picture of terror, she stared at me. “HE’S GOING TO EAT ME!”

“Not necessarily, there is something we can do.”

Hope painted her face. “What?”

“The toy monster hates being read to; it makes him sick.”

“Oh, I’ve got lots of books.”

Yes, and most of them covered in dust from lack of use. “Okay, read a book out loud each night, and he should stay away.”

Her shoulders slumped. “But reading is so hard,” Rachel said.

“I can help you, but you will need to do some of it yourself.”

“Ooooooohkaaaaaay,” she groused.

So for the next few weeks, she read her books, and most of her toys reappeared. Found, I said, outside her door in a gooey pile. It seems reading stories aloud made the toy monster so sick he spit up the toys, and now they were (after being cleaned, courtesy of her loving father) suitable for her to take back.

A few weeks later, I was putting Rachel to bed. “Daddy, is the toy monster real?”

“What do you think?”

She fixed me with a serious stare. “No. The other kids said there’s no such thing.”

Oh well. I suppressed a bemused grin as I nodded, but when I turned to go, something stuck to my foot. “Rachel?”

“Yes, Daddy?”

“Did you ever hear of the dirty underwear monster?”