At first, I was too young to understand what was happening. I would be put on the red furry thigh of some old man in a beard and he would ask me if I had been good or bad and what I wanted for Christmas. It was an awkward conversation, particularly since he seemed to know my name and I was too young to talk.
But that was just the first couple of years. After that, this fellow became known around our house as Santa Claus and while I thought that for the most part, he smelled of cologne, sweat, and urine from children who weren’t reliably potty trained. I knew I’d always get a second personal visit in which he brought me neatly wrapped toys.
This was as it was, and as far as I knew, how it was for everyone else. Barring one thing, it was like everyone else. No one else’s father sat on Santa’s lap at the mall. They certainly never had a whispering conversation which left them both giving each other sly looks and winks.
Each year I’d hoped that meant that there was a special plan for me to get a pony. Alas, it never happened. Not to say that Santa’s visits on Christmas Eve weren’t welcome. After all, it was his night and he brought the gifts.
I would stay downstairs by the giant Fraser fir bedecked with as many ornaments as it could bear, playing with my little brother, Mikey. We’d shake the boxes, dreaming about what might be inside. I hoped there would be practical things for my pony like hay or a bridle—the sort of thing you could actually wrap. None of the boxes was big enough for a saddle except for one disappointing year where the big box held a Barbie Mansion.
Santa never stayed downstairs with us kids for long. Not since mommy left and Brad showed up. In fact, I don’t remember Santa visiting us before Brad. Year round Brad tried to remain gainfully employed as an actor with moderate success. Fortunately, Daddy was an engineer.
Brad always seemed to get busy around Christmas. We’d all miss him terribly, but Daddy felt his absence most keenly, of course.
We never saw Brad on Christmas Eve. He always claimed he had a previous engagement and he would see us after midnight. Brad kept his word and always showed up looking mussed and harried, but the fact that he had never met this interloper Santa Claus made me annually anxious.
Want to find out what’s up with that sneaky Santa?