here comes santa claus, fur reals

Santa Claus is a woman.  She is.  Oh, I know you’ve seen those Santas at the mall, those men in eco-friendly fake fur with their synthetic white beards.  Okay, so maybe your mall Santa is a retired motorcycle salesman with an authentic scraggly beard, but come on now.  We all know they’re imposters.  Leaders of all kinds have traditionally been men and so it goes with Santa, right?  It makes sense to dress him up in the suit, hand him the reigns of the sleigh and smile in your apron strings as he gets all the credit.  But we know.  We know.

Earlier this year after losing a few more teeth and scratching her head at the glitter trail left by the toothfairy, my littlest love — almost a middle schooler who’d be mercilessly teased for still believing in toothfairies —  finally figured out that I’ve been the magic all along.  We had a conversation in the car about it, and she conceded.  In the saddest voice, she turned her head towards me and gazed out over those glasses of hers and said, If you’re the toothfairy, then are you Santa, too?  Yup.

And that was it.  A huge rite of passage, done.  No more Santa!  Hooray!!!  We could all relax now.  We can tone this whole Christmas thing down and get to bed by midnight on Christmas Eve.  And I won’t need to stress over those Santa letters or steam them open anymore or listen to any, I don’t need to write a letter, mama, Santa will know what I want.  I can finally put my magic boots away and rest my tired, weary from shopping bones by the fire.

If you’ve been reading this blog over the years you know I have mixed feelings about Santa.  My father was the best Santa, which was wonderful, of course, but when you have a Dad like that, who late on Christmas Eve will actually scale a rickety step ladder, hoist himself up onto an icy roof and then stomp around over your bedroom ceiling so you’ll believe already and hurry off to sleep, well, it sets the bar pretty high.  To pass that magic on to my little loves, my Santa skills have had to become legendary.  Like the time I forgot to leave something under the tree, a small but coveted stuffed cheetah I’d bought too early to remember where I’d hid it.  When I discovered it stashed in a cupboard a few days after Christmas, I tossed it haphazardly in a potted plant beneath the chimney and brought little love outside, exclaiming innocently, Look!  What’s that?  Oh my goodness!  That must’ve fallen out of Santa’s sleigh.  You should have seen the huge eyes, the looking up toward the roof, and the smile.  Well-honed, legendary skills I tell you.  So legendary that until just this last year littlest still BELIEVED.

Now that we’re all clear there’s no fat man coming down the chimney with a sack full of presents, though, she wants to act like the game is still on.  Can we just make like there’s still a Santa?  Can we still wait until Christmas morning to put out all our presents?  Sure, love.  And by the way, what are you talking about?  There is a Santa: me.  She laughs.  Mom, Santa is a man.  Oh no, I insist, egging her on.  Santa is a woman.  You’re looking right at her.  Mom, I’ve seen Santa.  Santa is a man!  You mean all those phonies in the shopping malls?  Those guys are just dressing up and pretending to be Santa.  Santa’s a woman.

She giggles as she hops out of the car at school and just before she closes the door on me scrunches up her face and insists one last time, Santa is a man!  We’ve found a way to play like the game is still on, like Santa is still real somehow.  Still fun.  And after thinking all day of how to keep the game going and convince her he’s a woman, it suddenly dawns on me.  Once we’re back in the car together and on our way home, I ask if the Santa who came to her school for Red & Green day was a woman.  She laughs and takes the bait.  Of course not, mom.  Santa is a man.  And that’s when I hit her with my most convincing argument yet.  She goes to Catholic school, so I start by asking her demurely, so what does Santa mean?  Saint.  Duh.  Very good, I say.  Now what about all those cities over the hill from us.  What are they called again?  Let’s see?  San Jose.  Isn’t that Spanish for St. Joseph?  And what about San Francisco?  San Mateo.  And don’t forget San Diego down south.  She starts to laugh because she knows what’s coming next.  But we don’t say San Clara. No, it’s Santa Clara.  And Santa Barbara.  And Santa Rosa.  You know there’s no San Claus.  San Carlos, yes, but no San Claus.  It’s Santa Claus, pal.  And Santa . . . is a woman.

Merry Christmas!

If you want to tell people the truth [about Santa], make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.

~ Oscar Wilde


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