Friday, December 23, 2011

I Saw Mommy Being Santa Claus

This year I'm not going home in the traditional sense--I'm meeting my family in the San Francisco Bay Area. Usually I go to Washington State where my Mom, Step-dad and brother live, but even when I go up there it isn't the childhood home I grew up in like it is for my brother. It's the house they bought a couple of years after I graduated high school. While I was growing up, we lived with my grandparents in North Pole, Ak, in a haunted house near Stanford University, an apartment in Palo Alto, CA, a duplex in Cupertino, CA, a large apartment in Anacortes, WA, and then a house down the street from that apartment. My roots didn't lie with the location or environment where I lived but rather with the one person that was always there at Christmas. No, not Santa. My Mom.

She was my Santa growing up...and it wasn't difficult to figure out Santa's true identity either. All of the presents she pretended were from Santa were in the same exact handwriting as my mother's, the stockings were filled weeks before Christmas, evidence of the cookies and milk I set out for Santa on Christmas Eve were seen in the trash and the sink, and unwrapped presents were often "hidden" in really obvious places like the linen closet where bath towels were kept. I really wanted to believe in Santa just like all my friends did. She just made it really hard.

When I was seven, I sat on Santa's lap and secretly asked him for something I knew my Mom could afford: a leaf. It was free and could be taken from any tree or even off the ground, so if I found a leaf wrapped under the tree or in my stocking then Santa could actually be real. Of course I didn't find it, and that's when I knew for sure. I continued to play along, however. I didn't want my Mom to feel that she was doing a shoddy job as Santa...she had enough to worry about as a single mother.

When my brother got to the age that my Mom felt he needed to discover that Santa wasn't real (I seriously think he was 10 or 11), she read him a book from the library about the very first St.Nicolas. In this book Santa dies...and my brother was so distraught that my Mom decided she would write him a letter pretending it was from Santa and telling him he was actually still alive. Alive in our hearts. This left my brother completely confused.

As I embark upon another Christmas, I know I don't have a home to go back to but I do know I'll have the feeling of home when I see the petite blond Santa I've always known. A mother that saved her change in a big jar all year long so that I would have a few presents under the tree. A mother who puff painted the names of all my favorite golden age movie stars on a mint green sweatshirt. A mother who sewed me a velveteen rabit when I fell in love with that children's story. A mother who says all year long, "maybe for Christmas" anytime my brother and I ever mention anything we are wanting. The fact that we are both adults now does not deter her from trying to fill our hearts with hope. She may have been one of the worst Santa Claus impersonators out there, but her mothering skills made up for what some may see as a flaw and I see as sweetly humorous memories.

Mama Santa actually collects Santa figurines :)

Mama Santa telling me "Maybe for Christmas..."

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