The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Santa Conspiracy

by Tricia Dower


I can tell you where I was when I heard JFK had been shot.

I can tell you where I was when the twin towers came down.

I can tell you where I was when I found out Santa Claus was a big fat lie: in line at Grover Cleveland elementary school waiting for the morning bell one December day.

As a first grader I was at the back of the line. In front of me were the big girls, including my sister, Lili, and her friend Helen. Throwing my voice to the front of the line, I called out, “Helen, what’s Santa gonna bring you for Christmas?”

Her scoffing laugh travelled all the way back down to me. “There’s no Santa,” she said.

“Shut up, Helen,” my sister said, but it was too late.

After school, I ran into the house and up to my mother. I can see her, still, in what we called the back room, wearing a housedress and ironing.

“Santa Claus is in your heart,” she said in response to my question.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that, with Santa living in my heart and not the North Pole, presents must be hidden somewhere in the house. My parents’ favorite hiding place was their long, deep, bedroom closet. One year, I played with a puppet theatre a full month before I received it.

I wasn’t the only one whose little psyche was damaged. ‘When did you first find out?’ was as popular a conversational topic among my friends when we were young as loss of virginity tales were when we grew up, both told with the same level of horror.

I think what bothered me most was the elaborateness of the lie. The hanging of the stockings on Christmas Eve, the sound of sleigh bells after I was in bed (my father in the backyard), the writing of those pleading letters to — as it turns out — the dead letter office. The evasive answers to the big questions: How can Santa make it around the world in one night? Why doesn’t he leave gifts for poor children?

Some believe 9/11 was a conspiracy by the U.S. government to manufacture a reason to take the country to war. Others say too many people would have had to be involved and they’d never have been able to keep it secret. Oh, I don’t know. What if those people were parents?

This Santa rocks. Front and side views of a rock I painted when I was a stressed out working stiff in need of therapeutic hobbies. Underneath the paint is a piece of coral and sand thrown up by the ocean in Hawaii. (Photos by my friend Wayne McNulty)

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anne C. said...

That Santa rock makes you seem like an even more mysterious and complex person. If I'd been shown a picture of it and asked who in the CWC was most likely to have crafted it, I don't think I would have said you.

Thu Dec 13, 07:07:00 AM EST  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Love that Santa/Atlas rock/coral! (Who would you have attributed it to, Anne?)

While I do not remember when or the exact circumstances of learning 'the truth', I think I recall the feeling. "Shattered" comes to mind.

Thu Dec 13, 05:37:00 PM EST  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Hey, thanks for reading, you two. Anne, I suspect everyone is mysterious and complex if s/he just lives long enough.

Thu Dec 13, 07:58:00 PM EST  
Blogger Chumplet said...

I think I was about ten when I found wrapped presents in my parents' bedroom closet. I don't remember the defining moment when I stopped believing. Maybe I never did.

Even now, when the streetlight sparkles on the snow and I listen to Mannheim Steamroller, I imagine St. Nick plowing through the drifts and giving handmade gifts to country children.

Thu Dec 13, 08:23:00 PM EST  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I love Mannheim Steamroller, Chumplet. Haven't listened to them in years. You just keep on believing, okay?

Thu Dec 13, 11:27:00 PM EST  

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