I guess Santa is very important to us because we all remember how we found out he didn’t exist. For me, it was really early on. I can’t remember what I did last week, but the memory of that night is quite vivid. Also, my family never let me forget it. Just like the Christmas I got drunk and apologized to the maid.
First, let me disclose that I had a wonderful childhood. I feel I need to because you couldn’t really deduct that from my cynical online persona. If you’re reading this, you probably have been exposed to my Tweets or Facebook posts, so you know how it is with me.
My maternal grandparents doted on me, my siblings and my cousins, indulging us to no end. I can’t think of a single thing I ever wanted that I didn’t get. I think this is why I refuse to settle for anything mediocre as an adult. It’s good but it’s also bad to grow up happy and privileged like that because it’s hard to take when you don’t get what you want.
Anyway, Holidays were huge in our family, especially Christmas. The adults worked very hard to make sure they would be special and memorable.
I was around four and we still lived in Mexicali. My mother was still married to my biological father (I call him The Biological Man) and there were only three grandchildren then. My sister was two and my cousin Aaron was three. In Mexico, Christmas Eve is the day when families get together for tamales and champurrado and open presents. The adults delighted into making a big production out of Santa’s arrival and even scaring us a little bit. And believe me, it was very exciting. We’d hang out in the living room, on the edge of our seats, while the grown ups worked us up. Then, my grandpa would say “Do you hear that? He’s here!” My cousin Aaron used to get very nervous. He’d jump from leg to leg the way you do when you’re trying not to pee on yourself. He was so skinny his pants would fall off. Then they’d usher us into a bed room for the excruciating wait.
My grandma would get us even more excited with anticipation. We’d hear bells ringing and then we were let out to find dozens of presents under the tree and Santa standing and HO HO HOing right in our living room. I usually went up to Santa to shake his hand. But that night something went terribly wrong. I looked at his shoes. Something clicked and disappointment set in. I watched as my sister bawled from fright and my cousin handed Santa a tamale with one tiny, trembling hand as the other hand held his pants up. Santa took the tamale, HO HO HO’d again and left. I didn’t say a thing. I had the good sense, at four, not to say a thing.
Days later my mom asked me if I was happy with what Santa brought me. I said yes, but there is no Santa. Her eyes widened. She was about to say something, but changed her mind and pretended I hadn’t said a thing. I didn’t let it go. I told her I knew Cuagua (her teenage sister, auntie Claudia) was Santa. I remember the shocked looked on my mom’s face. She then tried to deny it and asked me how I knew. I told her I recognized her shoes. Cuagua used to wear black Doc Marten type of shoes then and obviously she never took them off. I then told my mom not to worry. That I wasn’t going to say anything to my sister and cousin. She laughed and thanked me for being so considerate. I kept my word and let them find out on their own years later.
I guess here is where I have to explain I wasn’t a typical four-year old with average intelligence. I said my first words at six months, walked and refused to drink from a bottle at nine months, and spoke in complete sentences by the time I was one. There was just no way I was going to believe in the Santa charade for a long time. Maybe this is why every year I tell my nephews and niece there is no Santa. They don’t believe me of course. And the oldest one is 13. I believe they call it reverse psychology. Besides, I have a bad rep. You can’t take anything I say seriously, right?