Monday, November 24, 2014

The dreaded Santa question

"Is Santa ---" my seven year-old Seconda started to ask. I knew what was coming.

She would ask me if Santa was real. When Primo was her age exactly, he asked me this, and I was unprepared. I stalled for a few months by asking him if HE thought Santa was real and then when that no longer held him off, I asked if he REALLY wanted to know the answer, which I thought was pretty much an answer in and of itself. And then when he insisted yes, yes, he was ready to hear it, he was strong enough, I told him the truth.

This time, though, with my second-born, I was ready. Except she didn't ask the question I thought she would.

"Is Santa dead?" she asked instead.

Buy time, my mind strategized.

"Who told you that?"

"Marion." she replied, "and Harry and Chloe and a bunch of other aids."

"So what you're saying is there's a rumor going around school that Santa Claus is dead?" I asked.

I have gotten proficient at the stalling-by-asking-questions strategy.

"Yes," she said, "Is is true?"

The problem with my ingenious stalling tactic, though, is sometimes the extra time does not buy me better ideas. I'm right where I starred.

"No it's not true," I said, and then I tossed in a really forced over-loud peal of laugher which is my specialty. "Of course not."

"But a lot of the kids said it was true," she said dubiously.

"Well let me ask you this," I pressed on, "What do they say is the cause of death?"

I was thinking she'd say he got hit by a car or developed cancer or slipped and fell off a roof one night or got trampled by an unruly reindeer or maybe he drank himself to death or took one too many painkillers or maybe he was murdered. None of those responses would have surprised me. These are city kids, after all.

"He died of old age," Seconda replied.

Then I laughed for real.

"Seconda, that's ridiculous," I replied, knowing full well that the whole Santa mythology was ridiculous, that the entire tale was a kind of insanity, an insanity which I was, now, fully committed to perpetuating.

"I mean, Santa is already thousand of years old." I went on, "so why on earth would he die of old age this year? It's like he was fine on his 1,564th birthday but the 1,565th one just put him over the edge? That is really silly."

She looked at me skeptically. I felt a bit uneasy. Primo did not take the truth about Santa well. He is STILL pissed at me for "lying" to him. Whenever I tell him something that he doesn't quite believe, and he questions the veracity of my statement, I say "Have I ever lied to you?" --  idiotically thinking he will agree that the answer is no.

"Yes," he invariably replies, "You lied to me about Santa. For years. So you're a liar."

"I just wanted to give you THE MAGIC of Christmas that I loved when I was a kid!!" I retort. "It's a STORY."

"It's a lie," he says. Case closed.

I don't know if Seconda will hold the Santa story against me like her big brother does. But there is no turning back now. Confirming Santa is dead won't rectify the first "lie", it'd only add another one to the pile.

So, no, I refuse to kill off Santa. Call me old-fashioned.