There are four stages of a man’s life:
1) He believes in Santa Claus.
2) He doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.
3) He is Santa Claus.
4) He looks like Santa Claus.
I’m hovering between 3 and 4, edging ever closer to a full 4. Which has its obvious drawbacks, but it’s still a good thing as I’m particularly fond of the Christmas season. It’s a sensory delight, what with the lights, the sounds, the smells, the sitting around in torn sweats and mismatching socks dunking those Danish butter cookies that come in 100-gallon drums into a mixing bowl of eggnog throughout the 24-hours “Christmas Story” movie marathon.
OK, I made up that last part. No, seriously.
There’s also the socializing, the great food, some time off. (I left out “much deserved” because that’s, well, a given. Duh.)
What’s not to like about all that?
OK, you got me there. Sure, there’s crushing credit card debt, crazed crowds of angst-ridden shoppers, the relentless rush-rush-rush, post-party mornings of a pounding head and cottonmouth. I read about that last part in, ah, the paper one Sunday morning before heading straight off to church.
I’ve been described as an overgrown kid and won’t deny it. Aging is mandatory, maturity optional. Were I a counselor/analyst — granted, an unnerving and disconcerting notion on so many levels — I might opine that, for those who follow it, the Christmas experience allows us to reconnect with our inner child. In so doing, we draw deeply from the well of long-submerged feelings of safety, security, familial love, innocent excitement and that all-too-elusive sense of wonder.
Not to mention socially acceptable avarice. (Hey! How come Dennis and Mary got more gifts than me! No fair!)
It rekindles warm and wonderful memories, like me Ma tripping in the dining room and sending a full baking dish of ravioli and tomato sauce flying. Seemed hilarious at the time. Well, not to her, obviously.
Of staring at me aged granddad, in his chair sleeping and snoring, his mouth open but his dentures closed. (Also hilarious. Not to him when he’d wake up and catch us.)
Of the fully decorated Christmas tree toppling over onto me Ma’s cousin during dinner and a brother exclaiming “tim-ber!” (Hilarious squared.)
Of learning the heart-wrenching truth about St. Nick and in a fit of rage sharing the news with little brother, who couldn’t have cared less.
That, right there, foreshadowed the day when he’d become an attorney.
Come to think of it, Clue Number 2 came some years later as the two of us stood in the bushes below baby sister’s second-story bedroom window one bone-chilling Christmas Eve, shaking jingle bells until our clattering teeth drowned out the happy sound.
Just as we were about to retire to the living room, then ablaze with the glorious glow of a burning yule log — televised in black and white — he shouted, “Ho, ho, ho! Meeeeeeeeery Christ-mas!”
“You idiot!,” I whispered, no doubt punching and/or pushing him. “Now she’s gonna know for sure it was us! Nice going, jerk.”
“Nah,” he said quite cool, calm and collected. “She’ll never know the difference.”
Turns out he was right, but that’s entirely beside the point.
That may have been the first time I’ve played Santa, sort of, but certainly not the last. I’ve got a version of that red and white suit, complete with the black vinyl boot tops, and have worn it at home, at friends’, even a Town Hall Christmas party or two. Can honestly say I’ve had a couple of supervisors sit on Santa’s lap. No, I’m not bragging.
“What? You want me to believe that you’ve been especially good this year? How much have you had to drink?”
The suit, admittedly swiped from a friend a couple of decades ago, is, sad to say, showing its years. So much so that the Mrs. warned me against wearing it to this year’s company Christmas gathering, lest she engage the services of that selfsame attorney brother in a matrimonial action. Then she made some sort of cockamamy comparison to Billy Bob Thornton in “Bad Santa.” For the life of me I don’t know what she’s getting at.
So absent being served with a writ of some kind, I’ll probably don the suit — perhaps for the last time — Friday evening and do my Santa shtick again.
What a wonderful time, unless of course the Mrs. hands me the phone and says something like, “It’s your brother, and he said it’s imperative that he talk with you. Now.”
Tell him I’m busy, and add these three words: “Naughty list and coal.”