No Miracle on 54 6th Avenue. I Never Believed in Santa and “Ho Ho Ho” It Didn’t Ruin My Life.
In the above photo, Santa and I are looking in the same direction, but we don’t see eye to eye.
Even at age six, when I was literally looking into Kris Kringle’s dilated pupils while I sat on his lap giving him my litany of toy requests, the guy was off-putting. He was weird … and he smelled. To be fair, the jolly fat man never had a chance, since I was innately suspicious of any adult wearing a costume … clowns, Santa, mimes—the whole lot.
I just knew they were hiding something.
The fact that this particular department store Santa reeked of whiskey didn’t help my built-in bias; however, since most adults during that era, and within certain social circles, smelled like a distillery this wasn’t particularly upsetting. Back then “the cocktail hour” was a staple of high-society life, which explains why to me, at least, all olives tasted like gin. I know this because I used to steal the green ones from my parents’ friends’ martini glasses as they guffawed and puffed their way through that tortuous time of day between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm.
Like clockwork, my parents would summon me downstairs and parade me in front of a living room full of adults. It was always the same: “Oh, what an adorable child you are!” Oh, look at you carrot top!” “Oh, I just love your freckles …you know, they’re really angel kisses!”
“Kiss my bloomin’ arse!” I wanted to tell them with my best Eliza Doolittle-at-the-races cockney accent—except I was a child, so that choice imperative would not have been in my lexicon. But if I could go back in time—by way of an H.G Wells time machine—I would have said that … and more.
Back to Santa. I’m pretty sure that it was that same creepy department store Santa that spawned my early desire to become an FBI profiler. I might have even told Santa that—right after I quickly informed him what I wanted for Christmas: A “Cathy Quick Curl doll and silly putty … please!”
As rehearsed, Santa then came to the next line in his script. “So, little girl, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A federal agent,” I flatly retorted, flashing him my most engaging little girl smile. “You know, so that one day I can put away creeps like you.” It was a smile that I used quite often—to great effect. At the age of five, it had landed me a Cream of Wheat commercial. My one Shakespearean line was, “I’m sweet, I like Cream of wheat!” (Which in hindsight sounds rather creepy—as in Warren Jeffs kind of creepy.) That’s right, I was a child-laborer—a salesman of mush, a pusher of creamy goodness, a red-haired, freckled-face prodigy who never saw a dime from my hard-earned stardom. But that’s another story. (As it turned out, I would end up doing more TV commercials in my 20s and the royalties were pretty sweet. Take that, Cream of Wheat!)
But again, I digress …
I never did warm to Father Christmas and therefore was nonplussed when one day my chain-smoking teenage sister informed me that he wasn’t real. “Get over it! “ she declared, puffing smoke in my face as she religiously teased her beehive hairdo. I’m sure she thought (hoped) that she had just rocked my entire belief system and my life would promptly unravel. Instead, I retorted smugly, “I knew it!” as I gulped down yet another of my mother’s stolen martini-soaked olives.
How did never buying into the whole Santa thing affect me? Who knows? I do know that I was a self-avowed atheist until age 17, at which point the God of the Universe revealed Himself to me—in a most extraordinary way. Perhaps if Jehovah had descended from the clouds wearing a costume, I would have been more dubious of that “God meets girl” moment. Instead of Saul on the road to Damascus, I would have been doubting Thomas in the Upper Room.
And that ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is the story of my brief non-relationship with Santa Claus. I just hope that in writing this confessional, I didn’t destroy your entire belief system. If I did—well, I have only one thing to say to you: “Get over it!”
Ho. Ho. Ho.