Santa's Crotchety Helper
Thanksgiving has come and gone, leaving in its wake that moral obligation of Christmas shopping. The Salvation Army volunteers are out ringing their bells, and I throw a dollar into their buckets every time I encounter one - because that group does good work. Christmas carols are playing on the radio and in the stores, and though the weather remains unnecessarily warm, the feeling and joy of the holidays are starting to permeate the air.
My niece, a beautiful young woman who will be forty this summer, asked me over the weekend if I knew what age kids quit believing in Santa Claus, a curious query that might lead a person to believe that she, herself, is questioning the existence of the jolly, bearded one. It seems some schoolyard bullies had been telling one of her kids that Santa was not real. I felt this Christmas betrayal probably started in lower elementary school, perhaps as soon as a child's first Christmas as a student.
My sister piped in at about this point and said that she always told her kids, "He who does not believe, will not receive."
And if the mere existence of Santa Claus was not controversial enough, this year Fox News is stirring up it's legions of old white racists with stories decrying the Mall of America in Minnesota for hosting a black Santa Claus.
Santa Claus used to be about fun, not race-baiting.
Today I stumbled across a poem, "The Death of Santa Claus" by Charles Harper Webb, which sort of takes that metaphorical "death" of Santa and turns it into a more literal death, one in which the old boy suffers a heart attack while tending to his beloved deer. The poem tells us that whatever form the news takes, the death of Santa is very real and it is a time for grieving.
Please enjoy the following - if you are able:
The Death of Santa Claus
by Charles Harper Webb
He's had the chest pains for weeks, but doctors don't make house calls to the North Pole, he's let his Blue Cross lapse, blood tests make him faint, hospital gown always flap open, waiting rooms upset his stomach, and it's only indigestion anyway, he thinks, until, feeding the reindeer, he feels as if a monster fist has grabbed his heart and won't stop squeezing. He can't breathe, and the beautiful white world he loves goes black, and he drops on his jelly belly in the snow and Mrs. Claus tears out of the toy factory wailing, and the elves wring their little hands, and Rudolph's nose blinks like a sad ambulance light, and in a tract house in Houston, Texas, I'm 8, telling my mom that stupid kids at school say Santa's a big fake, and she sits with me on our purple-flowered couch, and takes my hand, tears in her throat, the terrible news rising in her eyes.