It seems to me that a rite of passage for most Christians who believe in Santa is that moment at which all doubt is removed and you know, unquestionably, that there is no “real” Santa.
For me I had heard whisperings about 2nd grade. We hung out with the Johnson boys, and they were tons more worldly than we would ever be. First, their parents were divorced. Even in our working class neighborhood, this wasn’t the norm at that time. Most of the families on the street had a distinct Mr. and Mrs. or a widowed Mrs.
Ruby Johnson, however, was a different creature entirely. Before the term MILF was coined, she was one. Beautiful body, despite being a mom to three, dark complexioned, and compelling to men. She slept LATE, bought ice cream with welfare checks, and let the kids eat cold corn from a can or popcorn with parmesan cheese. Her furniture had PLASTIC on it. When she needed money, we would bike up to Hilltop with Robby and Toby to collect it from Dr. Dickens. She had a lot of truck driver friends. She was exotic (mink oil and capped teeth).
Naturally her boys were more worldly. Duh!
However, 2nd grade was a trying time for me so I didn’t pay too much attention to what the Johnson kids had to say about Santa. I figured they were just on the naughty list, being that they did things we would have been killed for, so that was why Santa didn’t visit. I’m sure I was snotty about it. I’m sure they were just waiting…
However, by 3rd grade I didn’t hang out with them much. I had few friends, was completely uncomfortable in my own skin, and had started to gain tons of weight. Like any 3rd grade girl, my wish was for the Barbie du jour. I believe this one could be placed in the sun for a tan (yes, we were taught to give ourselves skin cancer via Barbie). 8)
I discovered Barbie in my parents’ closet. I know I was in there to look at the 50¢ piece I had gotten from my Grandma Conn the year before. The folks kept it in a small lock box. While rooting around for the box, I found the doll.
I carefully opened the packaging, untwisting the ties that kept her in place, and played with her. Then I would return her to the box, twisting her back in, and hiding her in the same place. I worked hard to make it look normal. I’m sure I didn’t, but nothing was said. Despite playing with her for what seemed like weeks, I was still excited for Christmas morning to come. Then I could take her to my friends (what few I had) and play with her in my room.
I could hardly sleep that night. The anticipation was killing me. Even knowing, I still wanted that gift.
The next morning, however, she was no where to be found. Not in a stocking, nor wrapped. I was crushed. Somehow I mentioned that there were no gifts from Santa (there actually weren’t). My mom went to her room, got our stuff from her closet, and said something akin to Santa thinking the closet was the chimney.
There she was. My Malibu Barbie. Delivered unceremoniously in a wounded cardboard box and bringing with her the death of Santa.
To be honest, I didn’t mind. I got my Barbie. The COOL Barbie. That it was from my parents, who were struggling after a devastating house fire and rebuild was OK. She can’t have been cheap. I think knowing my parents sacrificed to buy me the popular toy that year made it all better.
Besides, I was almost 9. I was old enough to know.