Santa Claus is in front of us and I’m a little worried.
He doesn’t stop to breathe, you see. He just talks and talks.
It’s pretty wonderful, actually. His spirit is getting the best of him and, let’s be frank here, he’s obviously drunk out of his mind on happiness, nicely buzzed on his own magical scent. And so, when you break it all down, I guess he’s kind of perfect in that regard.
I mean, c’mon. No one needs a pensive Santa, right? No one wants to hang out with a reflective elf or whatever.
But let me back up though, okay?
The scene: it’s me and Monica, my ex, and our middle kid, Henry, 3. A few seconds ago, she and I had been in the throes of passion. Okay, not passion passion. Ha! That’d be pretty dramatic, even controversial (oh my!), dear reader, in this chapter of our tale of divorce. What we’ve been engaged in here in her decked-out Christmasy house is way more mature and adult and blah blah blah. See, we’re a busted couple having a passionate discussion, something we rarely get to do anymore; we’re two grown-ups all embraced in that hot heaviness that happens when divorcing people manage to get together to hold congress regarding what gifts we’re getting the kids this year. And we’re also talking about when we want to take them to see the real Santa Claus down at the mall.
In the midst of moving apart, we’re still mom and dad, after all. And so here we are, making holiday battle plans.
But that’s when He appears, in the midst of all that. Santa Claus himself.
He walks into the room and stops and stares at us with his hands on his hips, his elbows pointed strategically backwards in order to thrust forward his jelly belly. He doesn’t do things for the hell of it, I can tell that right away.
Also, he’s small, Santa is. He’s friggin’wee. He’s what, three feet and change, tops? And it’s so wild but I’m not lying to you: he looks a lot like our middle son, Henry. He looks like Henry dressed up in the Santa Claus suit that has been floating through our lives since we bought it for Violet, 5, years ago.
But it’s not, you know. You need to know that right now, at this point in the tale. It isn’t Henry. If you called him that, you would get your sweet ass reamed.
Ladies and gentleman, this is the real deal here in front of us; and he’s bossy. He’s chatty. He might even be slightly condescending. It’s still too early to tell.
Monica stops mid-sentence and addresses the “elfaphant” in the room.
“Santa!” she exclaims.
This is the reaction I’m guessing the legend was hungry for because he thrust his belly out even more and unleashes his youngish but grizzled voice.
“HO-HO-HO!” he bellows. This makes our two faces grin — but that doesn’t last long. Before either of us can address Santa any more, he cuts us off.
“Stop talking!” he cries.
We giggle. I rarely giggle anymore. I’m 43 now. I can’t speak for my ex; maybe she giggles/maybe she doesn’t. You lose the ability to know that kind of stuff when you break up. You never know if or when she’s giggling. You only know it ain’t really going down around you.
So we put on our pay attention faces and Santa revels in that.
“I’m … I’m … I’m …,”he staggers a little bit, then changes direction. “Guess who I am?!” It’s a command, not a question. This is no bullsh*t session with some downtown Corner Claus.
“Why, you’re Santa Claus, of course!” We both say that and it lights his fire hot.
“You’re right!” he hollers. “Now listen.”
We’re all ears. You would be too, trust me. You wait all your life for certain things to happen, the best of those things being things you don’t even have half the imagination to imagine happening. Those are the best things that will ever happen to you, the stuff that’s too good to allow yourself to dream up. This is one of those times.
“I’m going to go out and come back and the door will be shut and I’m going to knock on the door and you … and you … and you …” he writes the script in real time, so we abide. “And you will answer the door and you will pweetend that you don’t know who was knocking.”
We’re speechless, duh. This is too much. It’s simply everything in the world coming down at once, really. So we just nod and mumble our OKs and stuff.
Santa looks at my ex like he knows her. Which, since he’s Santa and he knows everybody, he actually must.
“I need my sack,” he whispers to her. “The pehweewinkle one.”
It takes me a moment to decipher that one but it dawns on me that Santa is requesting his periwinkle-colored pillowcase. Monica returns quickly with it. He smiles big.
“And then,” he adds, ”When I pop out, you will … you will … you both …you both will act supwized!”
We agree with gusto. You’re damn right we will, Santa! You’re damned right we will.
And so it goes. There are a few more directions, a couple of times when Santa Claus gives very specific stage directions and then walks out of the room only to burst back into it with a brand new idea that has bombarded his hard-working brain, and then he is gone.
We look at each other, my ex-wife and I do; our faces light up, our words adrift in some far of galaxy, far far away from our tongues and our lips.
A couple of long minutes pass and we sit together quietly, our lives suddenly overcome with anticipation and excitement. That hasn’t happened in a long time. Not for both of us under the same spell, at least.
And then, it’s show time.
Thump. Thump. Thump. The sound of boots on the floor beyond the door. They’re Monica’s stylish motorcycle boots, but they belong to Santa now.
Knock-knock-knock. Oh my god. My heart is pounding. Is this what acting is all about?! I feel so in character. I’m Daniel Day-Lewis dressed up like Lincoln, pretending I’m Lincoln, freaking out the bartenders as I’m having a drink in the hotel bar!
“Who is it?!” Monica shouts.
“There’s someone at the door!” I exclaim.
We’re amateur as hell, but it doesn’t matter, my friend. There is a shuffle outside the door as we both creep up close to it. There is the sound of someone still messing around out there and so we wait, her hand on the knob, my hand on my mouth, covering my smile. I know if Director Santa could see me now he’d yell at me to stop smiling.
There is a rush and a flurry of sound then and, shortly thereafter, the sound of boots thumping away. She opens the door slowly. I peer over her shoulder. There is a periwinkle sack on the floor, nothing else and nothing more.
We are brilliant then, I must say. We act the hell out of our big scene, wondering who left this bag by our humble entrance, an unexpected delivery by our little forest cottage door.
He appears in a puff of sparkly smoke then. Or maybe there is no sparkly smoke for real, but there is sparkly smoke here now as I recall the tale. He speaks gruffly, like a pirate, and yet he’s tender as a lamb, reaching into his periwinkle sack and handing us each a familiar looking gift from his workshop (bedroom). Oh the wonder of it all! There’s something for everyone, even for his little brother and his bigger sister who are elsewhere in this house, doing other things, living separate lives.
His final gift comes seconds after he’d bid his final farewell. This Santa, he has a hard time with the exits. This Santa, he’s a ham, y’all.
“Here …” he says as he approaches Monica. “This is for both of you!”
It’s one of his boots. He now has one boot on. And one grubby sock foot.
I stagger under the weight of the gift, trying to imagine how the real Santa Claus could ever blow two people’s minds any more than by just handing them one of his very own Santa boots.
He smiles. We are in awe. We smile back. He looks so satisfied, standing there thrusting his belly at us.
“It’s my boot!” he says, his tiny voice all wrapped up in his tough façade.
“It’s my boot,” he adds again. “Now have a Merrwee Chwismis!”
And with that, he is gone.
Image: Monica Bielanko PrivateMore On