“Let me tell you a thing or two about Santa Claus, children! You think he loves you? Na, he don’t love you.”
The father knows that he has already said too much. He knows that he already caused enough damage with his opening statement. But he had enough. This was his And Justice For All moment, and damn to hell he was going to have his time to speak his truth, to shout his voice. So what if his audience was his four children, ages eight and younger. So what if it was Christmas morning.
“Santa Claus only comes around once a year and drops off a few hundreds of dollars worth of gifts. He’s just trying to buy your love. Then splits like some absentee father. But you know who stays around? Huh! I said ‘DO YOU KNOW WHO STICKS AROUND?’ It’s me! I stick around.”
The father thinks this last sentence has some weight on his four children. It should, but it doesn’t. All the children want is more toys. It’s December 25th and they are only four sweet, little innocent children. All they want to do is play with all their new toys under the Christmas tree. But that will have to wait until later, until after their father’s holiday temper tantrum.
It was a harmless statement, really, made by the oldest child that set the father off. The father handed his children four small wrapped packages after the kids had demolished the sleigh load of presents given to them by Santa on this Christmas morning. “These are from Mom and me,” the father said proudly.
After opening the gifts the children looked to their oldest sibling as a spokesperson, and she delivered their concerns.
“That’s it?” the eight-year-old girl said with a bit of self-indignation. “All you and Mom got us was a puzzle, a board game of Sorry and some books. You’re our parents! You should’ve gotten us more. Santa got us all this, and you only got us this small pile.”
That little statement was enough to light the father’s ignition. Like any other time of year, the father had a short fuse and anything innocent could get him going. It didn’t matter that these were his children, his flesh in blood. It didn’t matter that it was Christmas morning and this was the celebration of the Lord. Anger and self pity does not take a holiday.
Is it okay to be jealous of Santa Claus, of a fictional character? Is it okay to allow your children to think less of you to keep up with tradition of lying about the North Pole? Is it okay to allow children to be so self-righteous, so self- indulgent on such an otherwise perfect morning? The father didn’t think so.
The father has a hard enough time in this life comparing himself to the real people in the world, to the other parents and the kids’ teachers. He can’t possibly measure up to Santa Claus’ fictional philanthropy. The father was the one that worked overtime to afford that new bike for the toddler. He got a second job to purchase that Lego set for the six-year-old. He’s the one who stained his neighbor’s deck for Justin Bieber tickets and backstage passes. And he took a second-mortgage out on their home to pay off that Wii console.
And that fat, bearded, bloated son of a bitch from the North Pole wants to take all the credit. The father didn’t think so.
The father slammed down the basketball-sized ball of wrapping paper and quickly retrieved a can of beer from the kitchen. It’s only 8:30 am, but he has already downed two homemade ventis each with a double-shot Baileys Irish Cream. This coupled with his drunken Christmas Eve binge from the previous night and the father already has a Christmas load on that would make Dean Martin proud.
“Santa doesn’t care about you,” the father slurred. “ He’s just using you to make his name bigger. But listen to me. Listen to your father when I say, ‘If it wasn’t for me there’d be no god damn Santa Claus!’ If it wasn’t for me Santa Claus would be just another fictional name in one of those storybooks you’re always reading. You understand me?”
The father stops to wipe some foam from his the corner lip. He thinks for just a second trying to figure out if the foam is from the beer can or from his tirade. A good anger fit of rage demands a good timeout to gather one’s thoughts. This was his timeout. Standing above his children the father scans their faces for enlightenment…but he only sees fear. And that’s his next queue.
“You think you’re scared? Try fighting for your job day in and day out with a large family to support and Christmas right around the corner. You want to know fear? Try swiping your credit card at Toys R’ Us in the third week of December waiting to hear some teenager tell you that you’ve been declined. You think Santa Claus has to worry about bad credit? You think Santa ever runs out of money? You think Santa ever gets seven dollars worth of gas in that sleigh of his because he can’t afford to fill it up? Well, he doesn’t. And you know why? Because he’s not….”
The father stops right before he says the word real. The father catches himself in his children’s eyes and stops to think. He takes another drink of his can and surveys his audience. He catches his wife’s eyes. She looks at him then quickly looks to the beer. She raises an eyebrow and the corner of her lip in unison.
‘“Oh, come on? This little beer. What, Santa doesn’t drink? How about that red nose of his? How ‘bout that belly full of jelly? More like a belly full of whiskey sours!”
With this, the father takes the last sip of his beer can and crumples it with his fist. He tosses the can into the pile of Christmas wrapping and scans the living room landscape for another point of interest to shout about. He feels his tirade coming to a close and doesn’t yet want to let it go.
The father has always said that trying to reason with his children was like arguing with a bar full of drunks. Now with his alcohol-soaked spree this comparison never seemed so real. Only the children were not arguing back. These children stopped listening to their father long ago and are more concerned with protecting their new toys from their father’s anger. They knew from history that one wrong move might mean a toy could be ripped out of their grasp and tossed into the nearest wall.
“See what happens, guys? All you had to do was be grateful for what you got and it would have been a great morning. Now look what you’ve done. Look what you made me do.”
The father knows even the youngest of his children, the baby, could see through his self-pity. The father knows that his reasoning has hit a wall. The father knows that this little angry monologue was coming to an end and running out of fuel. The children’s silence has woken the father up and his anger has subsided.
The father paces in his house like a beaten tiger walking from room to room. He intently stops in the kitchen making another quick stop at the refrigerator for another drink. The father returns to the living room and sits on the rug with his quiet family. He sighs as he cracks open another can of beer.
The silence in the room is broken up only by the beer suds foaming to the top of the can and each revolution of the cho-cho train ornament on the tree. The father succumbs to this silence and sighs again.
Credit. That’s all the father wants. Credit. That’s all any parent wants. Sure, the excitable smiling faces brought on by these Santa-bought gifts touches a parent’s heart. But what any parents really wants is an adolescent thank you, some gratitude in the form of a tiny hand patting on a parental back.
Nowhere in any Christmas story does it mention the hard work of the parents. Nowhere is it mentioned the sacrifice, the sweat, the overtime, the long nights, the packed lunches, the over worn parental shoes and the aching feet.
Couldn’t some author, some illustrator somewhere magically weave into their Christmas story that Santa brings all these magical gifts on Christmas morning as a reward to all the parent’s hard work throughout the year. Is it too much to ask that Harper Collins Publishing partners with Rankin & Bass to whip up some fictional account that shines on both Santa Claus and the parents? Is that too much to ask? The father didn’t think so.
The father watches as the baby crawls along the carpet pulling at each torn pile of Christmas wrap. The father knows this story could only end one of two ways. Either he mans up and apologizes for ruining yet another Christmas morning with his selfishness, or he comes clean about the truth about Santa Claus. That’s when he realizes that there is only one way to end this. And it’s the truth. It’s about time for some real truth.
“Santa Claus is ….,” the father pauses and takes another swig. “He’s just not real, guys.” The father said it. He said it and finishes off the second half of his beer with one long gulp.
“Father!,” the mother abruptly shouts. Yet it was too late. He is committed to the truth and he cuts her off to continue.
“Santa Claus is just some made-up jerk, a mythical show-off,” the father goes on. “Santa Claus is just a charlatan. Fugazi, kids. Santa Claus is a big fucking fake!”
“Daddy! Daddy!,” the eight-year-old bravely interrupts pointing to the corner of the room. “Daddy, there is another gift under the tree.”
The father wipes his mouth of his last sip, and looks up to see another package peeking from beneath the dried, pine branches. He stumbles on his knees and crawls to the bottom of the tree pulling this last gift. In somebody’s best calligraphy there is a label attached: To: Father. From: Santa.
The father looks angrily, yet humbly at his wife. She shakes her head claiming nothing to do with it. The father knows his wife and knows she’s telling the truth. The father puts down his empty can of beer and begins to open the package searching for an answer. His face is illuminated by the shine of his eight-year daughter, who intently watches her father’s every move with a grateful glow to her smile.
At first rip of the wrapping the father immediately sees the words….BEERS OF THE ARCTIC. Another pull at the wrapping allows the full unveiling. It was a six-pack sampler from the North Pole. There was a bottle of Santa’s Ale Suds, a bottle of Snow Wheat and a bottle of Blitzen’s Buzz.
The father looks up and reveals a drunken tear trickling down his swollen red cheek. He looks up humbly at his children for their forgiveness. And he knows all too well that these children are full of forgiveness. Someday, he knows, this forgiveness will run out. But he is happy that today is not that day.
“Daddy, Daddy. Santa didn’t forget about you!” the eight-year-old says as she hands over a bottle-opener to her father. “See Daddy, he is real! His is real, Daddy!”
The father accepts the gift and pulls his daughter to his lap. He takes that bottle opener and rips off the cap of a Sleighbell Lager. He takes it to his lips and it is magical. This little elf-potion is steaming his palate and pours over him a new life. Stillness arrives back to the family.
“Yup, Honey,” the father repents. “Of course, Santa is real. He is as real as they get.”