Welcome Dear Readers to this edition of My Brain, Peanuts, remembers.
Today’s Topic: Santa Claus
The first memory of Santa I have takes place in 1954, when I was three, and Santa Claus was making a live appearance in the basement of the Presbyterian church. On the big day, everyone filed down the stairs to the chilly church basement and eagerly awaited the arrival of The Man in Red. (Back then church-goers didn’t really worry about anyone forgetting that Jesus was the reason for the season because 1) there was plenty of room in church for both Santa and the baby Jesus and 2) nobody had thought of that catchy phrase yet.)
Ice-Cold Church Basement Sunday School Clay
Anyway, we all stood around watching our breaths and breathing in the aroma of Sunday School Clay. That’s because our church basement always smelled like Sunday school clay. Sunday school clay is different from ordinary clay by virtue of the fact that it is kept in the cold church basement. So Sunday school clay was always somewhat frozen and by the time you got it warmed up enough to roll it into something as simple as a snake, Sunday school was over.
I never understood why they even bothered with having clay unless it was just something to keep us occupied while the Sunday School teacher was earnestly trying to impart some useful biblical wisdom into our somewhat disengaged little minds.
A Communistic Christmas?
Anyway, we all stood around waiting for Santa and shivering beneath the glare of church basement’s fluorescent lights that cast a Russian-esque-like hue over the scene — probably not unlike the same scene that was transpiring on in the opposite side of our cold-war globe in the basement of the Kremlin while communist children waited for Soviet Santa to make his appearance –i.e. Khrushchev in a fuzzy hat.
Anyway, when our Santa Claus finally appeared, he was wearing a rubber Santa Claus mask. The weird thing is, I was the only one that seemed to notice.
All the kids ran up to him as he handed out candy. I thought this was extremely alarming. So I began shouting at the top of my lungs, “Thanta Clauth ith wearing a Mathk!” (I had a slight lisp at the time.)
But no one seemed to care. Everyone was on board with this rubber-masked imposter. They were taking candy from him like it was candy. What was wrong with everyone? I screamed! I shouted! I was a three-year-old Paul Revere trying to warn my fellow pint-sized citizens not be taken in by this Santa Claus Charlton! But nobody listened.
Not the Real Santa
On the way home, my mother tried to tell me that that wasn’t the real Santa wearing the rubber mask in the church basement. The real Santa was busy at the north pole making presents, and he couldn’t take the time off to come all the way to our town to hand out candy (Plus it was probably too cold in that church basement even for him!)
I do believe in Santa . . . I do . . . I do . . . I do!
I wanted to believe her story. I really did. I looked up at the stars and tried to imagine Santa flying through the air. I strained to hear the sound of Santa’s sleigh bells. I neither saw nor heard a thing. Try as I might, the integrity of the Santa story was beginning to form some big, gaping holes.
The Jack Hubbard Incident
When I was five years old, the subject of Santa came up, and I cruelly broke the news to dear, sweet, innocent, Santa-believing, Jack Hubbard that there was no Santa Claus. I explained that he was merely a figment of the imagination, a tale told by an idiot, full of thound and fury thignifying nothing.(I still had my lisp).
A traumatized Jack Hubbard ran home, broken-hearted and told his mother what I had said. Mrs. Hubbard called my mother.
My Mother: Hello
Mrs. Hubbard: Jack said Linda told him there was no Santa Claus. Did she tell Jack that?
My Mother: Oh gosh I don’t know. Let me ask her (my mother put the phone to her chest). Linda, did you tell Jack there is no Santa Claus?
My Mother: Yes apparently she did tell Jack there wasn’t any Santa Claus.
Mrs. Hubbard: Why did she do that?
My Mother: Oh gosh. Let me ask her. (My mother put the phone to her chest again) Linda, why did you tell Jack there wasn’t any Santa Claus?
Me: Because there isn’t any Santa Claus.
My Mother: Oh.
I don’t remember what my mother said after that, but I do remember that neither my mother nor Mrs. Hubbard were none to happy with me and, frankly, I’ve been feeling guilty about it ever since.
This year my five-year-old grandson asked me if Santa Claus really existed. I told him that believing in Santa Claus is a personal decision that he would have to make for himself. This seemed to placate him since he didn’t exactly understand what I was saying.
If only I had thought of this answer when I broke the news to Jack Hubbard.
Until next time . . . I love you