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Friday, December 25, 2009

The Opinuary Column

The Opinion "I have decided to no longer believe in Santa Claus" died for an entire holiday season when I was seven years old. The Opinion, having been arrived at through careful and thoughtful rumination (combined with a creeping suspicion that the entire story of Kris Kringle was a cynically orchestrated sham) lay in ruins on the morning of December 25th, 1965, due entirely to two distinct boot prints that lay in the ashes of the fireplace of my family home. The sight of those boot prints, which could only belong to St. Nick, was a visual and visceral shock to my youthful sensibilities, a stark refutation of my nascent reasoning faculties, and it both excited and deflated my delicate intellect.

On Christmas morning that year, in addition to the boot prints, a brand new banana-seated gold-flecked-faux-fiber-glass Stingray Schwinn bicycle with my name on it awaited my arrival. It stood shining like a child's supernova just off to one side of the family Xmas tree: it sealed the deal of my belief as it was irrefutable proof of the existence of a magical gift giver who flew through the night to deliver toys and wonder to children all over the world, or so I was convinced that wonderful day. With a wide, slick rear tire and handle bars that drooped down like Dumbo's ears, I had gained the next level in life, the place where freedom and and speed combined to leave skid marks all over the neighborhood sidewalks. I jumped curbs, vanished into the farmlands, defied gravity for a time before I proved that gravity was actually quite patient and could never be denied for long. Crash! I had that year the best bike that I could ever possibly have, and Santa had brought it to me, even though I had gone past doubting his existence and had planted a flag in the Land of Outright Denial. No matter: I rode off that morning like some newly born idea, ready to explode in all directions at once, newly planted flag be damned.

The Opinion came back the next year, but it was too late. I had been disabused of my reason, and punked before it was even called that. Many years later I struggled through another Xmas Eve, this time assembling a bicycle for my son. Not long after that, I went with him to the local school, and ran alongside him and steadied his ride on the black top until he sailed away on his first solo launch. I was now leaving black boot prints in the ashes of another memory. I soared, my eyes tearing, my love indescribable, my joy unbounded. I flew with him, right up to the moment he started screaming "Help! I don't know how to stop!"

Today, the Opinion is at peace in a small, unremarkable urn I keep somewhere next to the stardust that I know falls in the lands between my mind and my heart. It is from this place that I wish you all the Merriest of Yules, and fresh boot prints to guide you there, should you require proof.


The Opinuary Column appears on Fridays at Jesus' General.



  1. At around the same age as mjs I lost my Santa virginity by dint of secretly following the Fat Man on his 15-minute break. There, in the back of the store behind some boxes, in a section sternly marked "Authorized Personnel Only," was Mr. Claus and a few elves smoking cigarettes and passing around a bottle of cheap hooch. (Actually, Santa himself was puffing on a big, wet-ended stogie.) As I recall, St. Nick was bragging about winning some money at the track and a loose woman he'd picked up in a bar the night before. At that moment I knew to my shoes this Santa character didn't exist in real life. Of course, my discovery a few days prior of where my parents had hid my presents also helped disabuse me of the Santa Sham.

    A brighter and older tot than me had earlier said, when brought before the Jolly Red God's kingly throne, "If you're really Santa Claus, what are you doing working a crummy job in a department store on Christmas eve?" To which the North Pole's most famous mythical resident replied in exasperation, "Just tell me what you want for Christmas, you little -- kid."

    These days, I know the creator of Krusty the Klown must have, as a child, visited that same store during Christmastime. The personalities and voice of my cigar-chomping Santa and the Simpsons' cartoon clown are just too perfectly matched.

  2. You got the bike that I wanted, you bastard! I hate you for that. I had to settle for this clunky old straight-up-seat thing that had fat tires, a little basket on the front and fenders. FENDERS, fer Crissake! I had to ride as fast as Forrest Gump runs to get away from the jeering...

  3. Being that I was the sixth of seven children, my mother (burnout?) never took me to see a department store Santa, the moral being that if you want a child to believe you should never do the reveal! At least that was the case for me. Shadows on the wall of the cave, that sort of thing...


  4. Oh, you lot got bicycles! We settled for a set of rusty handlebars off'n a discarded tricycle and spent Xmas Day zooming around the neighborhood making noises like a badly tuned BMW Isetta and leaving skid marks with our faces, elbows and knees.

    I saw mommy hitting on Santa Claus (who looked a lot like the old man) through the crack between the pocket doors as he put together some toy or other for one of my siblings. His comment, IIRC, was, "Why do they put so many extra fucking parts in the box?", this being said after he had finished assembling something that would have looked appropriate for one of the subjects of Hieronymus Bosch's fever dreamed paintings.

    I don't believe in GOD and I don't believe in Santa, but I believe in you, and I believe in us. (HT to Michael Been of "The Call" for "I Still Believe" and "Us")

  5. MJS – thanks for this.

    The whole Santa issue is somewhat of a mixed bag for me. Our youngest, who’s 8, still believes; but for my boys, who are 13 and 11, the Santa ship sailed a few years back. That’s okay; we still maintain the artifice for my daughter’s benefit, though I have a sneaking suspicion this’ll be the last year. My general view is you ride it for as long as you can, and when it’s over it’s over.

    But your story is particularly resonant to me this year, given that we lost my older brother, Tom, in October. Tom was fifty-one when he died. Fifty-fucking-one. Yeah, thanks a lot, God, if yer out there. Nice fucking piece of work, to take a fifty-one year old husband and father. Nice fucking piece of work indeed.

    Any way, the point is, I’m four years younger than Tom, and when we were kids for some reason he decided it was his life’s mission to keep me believing in Santa Claus for as long as possible. He concocted impossible stories to explain, for example, how Santa got into our house, through locked and dead-bolted doors, even though we didn’t have a fireplace. Anyway, putting aside the cloying sentimentality of it all, the point was: He did it out of nothing more than a sense of genuine kindness. This is what I remember most of all when I think about being a kid at Christmas. Has little to do with babes in mangers and that God-y stuff; it has everything to do with what my brother did to make me happy for no other reason but that he could.

    What a fucking knucklehead.

    There aren’t too many people like that in the world, or, if there are, I don’t encounter too many of them. Be well, everybody.

  6. Tank you sir, sniff sniff.

  7. Dave: My wife and I light candles for those who are gone--tonight we will light one for Tom, and raise a toast to him as well.


  8. Thanks, MJS. Much appreciated.

    Meanwhile, another powerful childhood Christmas memory is this: Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 recording of “Silent Night,” with the Seven O’Clock News in the background. That resonates, too.

  9. Happy Holidays, Everyone.

    Carved in Future Lore,
    Teribelle Swiftsword. <33

  10. Dave von Ebers:

    I won't be praying, but I'll be hoisting a few Ithaca Apricot Ales or maybe a couple of Dogfish Head Ales at Green's Pub. Ah, fuck it, I'll drink some of both! And I will offer that Irish toast that says:

    Here's to you and here's to us, let's just drink and carouse and make no fuss.

    And here's to that future day, when we're all elsewhere when it's our turn to pay!

    Yeah, it's Irish, cuz I just made it up!

  11. Mr. Democommie, Sir:

    Some doggerel in honor of the season:

    But if at church they gave away unlimited ale
    And a free buffet with foods hearty and hale
    And good companions for our minds to regale
    And comely company so our hearts might sail
    We'd sing and pray all the live long day
    And nary once from the pious, narrow way
    Would we fat, besotted hypocrites ever stray.

    "I wish you a Merry Christmas
    and a Happy New year;
    a pocketful of money,
    and a cellar full of beer."
    -- Anonymous

    A toast: May the beer enlighten our minds
    And strengthen our resolution!

    Or not. The ale's still good anyway.

  12. We just came back from the kids' house where the grandbaby (who will be 3YO in two weeks) told us that Santa came down the chimney and left all of the presents. The enchantment of the moment has not left me yet.

    Merry Xmas to you all (raising a virtual toast online and a not so virtual toast here at home).

  13. Damnit, I have nothing snarky to say about this.

  14. I will blog at length about this sometime, but several of you are missing the point. MJS has offered up proof positive of the existence of Santa Claus. Who says he isn't a spirit who possess parents and siblings and others now and then and makes us commit acts of kindness and generosity? Who says when I eat the cookies and drink the whiskey my kids leave out for Santa that I am not Santa? Like Sparticus, we are all Santa when we want to be.


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.