Santa and I

This isn't me, but I do get guilty pleasure out of "Scared of Santa" photo galleries.

The year I turned four or five, we drove to my grandparents in central Wisconsin for Christmas.  Actually, we did this for most years of my early childhood- until I was 8 or so and we moved to Florida.  Making the 1100 mile trek was more arduous and we did it less often after that.  My father’s family in Wisconsin had a tradition of gathering at his grandparents on Christmas Eve, but it had been passed to and uncle or cousin at that point.  I remember a haze of cookies, smoke, the clink of Point Beer bottles, loads of children I’d never met.  The women chatted in the kitchen, the men played Sheep Head  around the dining room table.   At one point, Santa Claus made an appearance, and I peeked at him through the legs of that dining room table strewn with playing cards.

Another year we had a smaller family gathering at my grandparents.  I was CONVINCED that when Santa appeared he had come down their very tall chimney…. they had an A-frame house with a two story living room with a prominent brick Chimney.  I’m pretty sure I hid that year as well- again, under the table.

The year I was 7 or so,  the phone had rung at my grandparents where we were staying and the phone was given to me.  It was Santa Claus!  He asked me what I wanted and I said a jewelry box.  We celebrated that Christmas Eve at my aunt and uncles’ farm house down the road.  We ate and ate, there was more Sheep Head I’m sure, and Christmas Caroling around the piano (who was playing?  Perhaps my aunt Susan).  Then suddenly, there was the jingling of bells outside and my aunt and uncle ran in to say that Santa had come and left gifts!  (Wisconsin is so far North, it’s one of the first places on his list, or so the story goes).  We ran into the East Wing to find piles and piles of gifts.  For some reason, none of them had names on them as far as I remember, and I remember being crushed that the thing I had identified as my jewelry box wasn’t intended for me.  I was steered towards my pile and the jewelry box forgotten for the time being.  My cousins were relieved that the Chimney Sweep who travels with Santa in German tradition, hadn’t left them coal.

The year I turned 9, I waited up behind the couch trying to ‘catch’ Santa- or my parents in the act.  Things were so tough, financially, that year, that we hadn’t purchased a tree.  Instead, a friend of my mother’s had lent her a hanging tree-like thing made of rings macrame’d together  that we hung our ornaments on and put our presents under.  I watched the lights twinkle for a while, but eventually made it to my own bed and let Santa Claus come unobserved.

What was the Santa of your childhood like?  Was he ever a disappointment?  Seem unfair?  Always jolly and a mythic figure?  Did you have to sit on his lap in a mall? Which Santa do you want your children to believe in, or do you even want them to believe at all?