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!)
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.
But again, I digress …allow me to veer from this current path of snarkiness and sarcasm and get real. Because it is, after all, CHRISTmas …
Santa Ain’t Real (So let’s stop pretending) … but guess who is?
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. He was none other than Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews and hope for all mankind: King of Kings, Lord of Lords … and my beautiful Savior, friend, confidant, faithful and true.
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. But from that life-changing moment on I’ve never doubted, never wavered. Jesus is real—so very real. And what He offers me—and you—can’t be put in a stocking or under a tree. What He gave cost God everything and us nothing … except a simple, Yes, and a life of surrender to all that’s beautiful, right and true.
Jesus truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
And that ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is the story of my brief non-relationship with Santa Claus and the beginning of my real relationship with the One who never fails, never disappoints. He is both the Gift and the giver of gifts, both ethereal and tangible. “Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights,who shines from the heavens with no hidden shadow or darkness and is never subject to change. God was delighted to give us birth by the truth of his infallible Word so that we would fulfill his chosen destiny for us and become the favorite ones out of all his creation.“
So … Merry Christmas from myself and the real St. Nicholas who, as you may or may not know, was a real person. Young Nic was raised by devout Christian parents and later dedicated his life to serving God and became Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. Now that “Santa” I could hang with.
Oh yes, one day ‘ol St. Nic and I will have a nice conversation (though I probably won’t be sitting on his lap). As we enjoy shared mind-bending experiences of flowers that give ode to their Creator through song, astonishing never-before-seen colors that dazzle and heavenly fragrances that lure us into a celestial calm , we’ll talk sailors and ships and all things earthy. But most of all we’ll bond over our shared affection for the Giver of Gifts, and Savior of the World … giving praise where praise is due. “For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life” (John 3:16).