We were still a few weeks away from Thanksgiving, but as my daughter and I entered our local mall I could see signs that the Christmas season was already beginning to rear its overly commercialized head. I’m not normally a scrooge, but I morph into one when I see people decking the halls before they’ve had the chance to digest their turkey dinner. I think that as long as the turkeys of the world are blissfully unaware that they are about to have an ass full of stuffing, Christmas should be nothing more than a tinseled speck on the horizon.
I guess the management at JCPenny didn’t care that I had just gone trick-or-treating with my kids or that I had no desire to have Santa crammed down my throat along with all the leftover Halloween candy. The department store was already dripping with tacky Santa sweaters and twinkle lights. As I tried to find the nearest exit, my ears picked up the familiar strains of “Frosty the Snowman” over the speaker system – it was my very first Christmas carol of the season and I had barely had the chance to step one foot into the month of November. When I heard the first few chords, I looked around in disbelief, searching for some store employee to blame for the auditory assault. When I caught the eyes of a woman who worked there, I vaguely pointed in the direction of the offensive sound and mouthed the word, “Really?” She shrugged sadly as if to say, “At least you don’t have to listen to this shit all day long.”
My 13-year old daughter, Meghan, was oblivious to my souring mood as she made her way over to the jewelry department. Now thanks to Frosty the (unwelcome) snowman, I immediately started thinking about what Christmas presents to buy for her as she commented on the jewelry she liked. I guess I fell right into the department store’s not so subtle consumer trap – hook, line and credit card.
Teenagers are notoriously difficult to buy presents for, and that goes double for teenage girls…. quadruple if it’s a gift of clothes or jewelry for a teenage girl. You might as well just hand them the receipt for the item, along with your apologies for not even coming close. I know that if it’s the wrong color, or there’s an offensive sparkle in the wrong place, the gift will be given a polite smile and then find it’s way to the bottom of their jewelry box or closet, never to be seen or heard from again.
I knew I needed some help, so while we perused through the glittery baubles I said, “You should get a jumpstart on your Christmas list for Santa… and adding in some pictures would be a big help.” Then I gave her an exaggerated wink and a nudge with my elbow, and continued to browse.
Meghan approached me with a look of stunned disbelief on her face and said, “Was that the moment??”
I was drawing a blank. “You’re going to have to help me out because I didn’t wear my teenager decoder ring today. What moment?” I asked.
“The moment every kid talks about – the one where their parent KILLS their childhood.”
I thought she was joking around with me, so I smiled and said, “Shut up. Don’t act like we haven’t talked about this before.”
We have talked about the whole Santa scam before… right? My brain started to frantically backtrack through all of our meaningful mother/daughter talks. Here’s the checklist I came up with:
- Sex (check). When she was about 9-years old, she wanted to know how babies were made. I vividly remember her being grossed out when she understood what sex was and then realized her parents must have engaged in the behavior. The conversation ended with a prolonged, “EWWWWWW!!!” and then she ran away. Not exactly the bonding moment I had envisioned.
- Menstruation (check). She got her period when she was 12-years old – if you count all the friends she texted first, I was probably the fourth or fifth person to find out. I guess I should be thankful I was in the top ten, and that I didn’t have to find out about it on facebook. After her admission, I took her through all the fun period paraphernalia and told her that Advil would be her new best friend.
- Drugs, alcohol and smoking (check, check, check). We talked about the dangers of this stuff beginning in 3rd or 4th grade when I kept hearing stories about kids getting drunk and high in the 6th grade. I would be thrilled if she never touched any of it, but realistically I’m just hoping to get through her high school graduation without having to ever find her laying down drunk in a puddle of her own vomit.
As my mind raced, I kept coming up blank where Santa was concerned. Could it be that we had covered all these weighty issues and glossed over the fact that jolly ol’ St. Nicholas was a total load of Christmas crap? It seemed impossible. Equally impossible was the fact that none of her friends or older cousins had filled her in on the hoax. But the forlorn expression on her face confirmed my worst fear –
I HAD JUST KILLED SANTA CLAUS.
I tried to backpedal and pretend like I was just kidding, but it was too late – the fat man was out of the bag now, and there was no way of stuffing him back in. I knew that Meghan would probably spend the next week mentally replaying all the lies I had told her over the years. I could almost hear her future accusations, “You mean the EASTER BUNNY and the TOOTH FAIRY too?! They were all LIES??” Yes honey, but they were good lies. (They must’ve been good for you to believe them for the last 13 years.)
As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait a whole week for the wheels in her brain to start turning – the kid always was too smart for her own good. During the ride home from the mall, she spewed rapid-fire realizations at me, and all I could do was sit there and mentally calculate what this was going to cost me in therapy bills.
One of the best realizations she made was about our cat, Matilda. Four years ago, Meghan woke up on Christmas morning to discover a new kitten under our tree that happened to have the same name as her favorite Roald Dahl book. Now she knew that Santa had no part in giving her that cute, little furball.
“YOU found Matilda?” she asked.
“Yes!” I finally blurted out like a criminal who had reached the breaking point during a prolonged interrogation. “And you have no idea how hard it is to find a kitten in winter! The damn cats only mate in the spring!! I had to visit half a dozen animal shelters before I found her and then I had to hide her at Grandma’s house until you went to bed on Christmas eve, and then…” I babbled on until the whole sordid story was told, and then we sat there in silence for a while.
It was my fervent wish that Meghan would grow to appreciate all the trouble my husband and I had gone through to create this fantastical ruse, and how difficult it was to maintain for so long. But I knew that wish wasn’t going to come true anytime soon. The few days that followed (what will now be referred to as “the Santa incident”) were spent with her saying things like, “I can’t believe you lied to me” and me feeling like Mommy Dearest right after she beat Christina with a wire hanger.
I guess we know who’ll be at the top of Santa’s naughty list this year…. will any of you be joining me?