It started as a harmless prank. Or, more precisely, as a way to perpetuate the cruel and pointless lie that Santa Claus exists. I’m as guilty as any good parent of lying to children.
When I was of the age when I held an abiding belief in the Claus hoax, my grandmother would take me and my sister into a dark bedroom under the guise of us hiding from Santa, or at least pretending to be asleep, so Claus wouldn’t bolt in terror as he was known for doing when he was startled by wide-awake kids.
While we were hunkered down giggling quietly, we could hear someone on the roof and the jingling of sleigh bells: Santa Claus. And it was undoubtedly him, and not my grandfather, who had gone down to the corner for a pack of cigarettes.
By the time I was in my 30s, I came to realize that, hey, my grandfather didn’t go down to the corner for a pack of cigarettes at all. He was part of the Santa scam.
A few years after that epiphany, my wife and I had a son, Ray Charles (despite all the racket she made during labor, it was still a team effort), and I just couldn’t resist pulling my generational weight in propagating the seasonal fraud. Bad things might happen to those who break the centuries-long chain of deceit.
We waited until our young son—I think he was about 3—was in bed on Christmas Eve before I slapped on a Santa cap, grabbed a wreath made of sleigh bells and about 20 yards worth of twine and snuck outside his window.
I tied the twine to the sleigh-bell wreath and heaved the thing up onto the roof where it landed with a loud and convincing jingle, and then I hauled it back down, jingling all the way.
In fact, it made so much joyous noise, it caused Ray to spring out of bed to open his window shade to see what the ruckus was, which in turn caused me to panic out of fear of impersonating a Claus, and as I tried to run out of view, I got tangled up in the twine and now I’m this guy running down the sidewalk in a Santa hat being chased by a noisy mad-dog sleigh-bell wreath.
Nevertheless, I collected myself and snuck back into the house after ditching the wreath and hat in the garage and sat down with my wife on the couch, giving the impression that I’d been there for hours, just watching the fireplace.
“I saw Santa Claus!” Ray shouted. “He was running down the street!”
Mission: Accomplished. Although it looked like Ray might’ve scared him off, because there were no presents under the tree. We sent Ray back to bed and told him if he was real quiet, Santa might come back.
So, we had to shore up the hoax on Christmas morning with a half-baked story the next morning about how Santa got his nerve back and returned to the house with a sack full of extravagant gifts, and we offered as proof the fact that he had eaten the entire plate of Christmas cookies we had left out for him, and his reindeer had nibbled, a bit less enthusiastically, at the carrots we left for them in the driveway.
Ray didn’t need much convincing, though. For one thing, he had seen Santa with his own lyin’ eyes and, as he noted, he knew Santa brought the gifts because, as he explained, “There’s no way you guys could afford all this stuff.”
Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.
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