The Truth About Santa
by Tyrle McDaniel
(Arlington, TX, United States)
When I was seven years old, my parents were in the midst of an ugly divorce, and an uglier custody battle. My dad was using his dad’s money. My mother had nothing, and we were living with her. Things were extremely difficult, and she could not quite make the bills. She took me aside into her room, and I knew I must have been in trouble for something, since I was not allowed in her room. She sat me on her bed, then sat with me.
“Honey, I have something sad to explain to you, since I think you are old enough, and responsible enough to understand. Santa Claus is not a real person.”
I looked at her in shock, wondering what the purpose of this conversation was, what she meant, and how it impacted me.
She continued, “There used to be a man that the stories are based off of, and he was a very good man, so people keep the tradition alive in his honor at Christmas time.” I asked her why.
“Because Christmas is a time for loving and giving. Some people keep good traditions alive because they are good traditions.”
She paused, looking very serious. “This conversation is not one I wanted to have with you this year. The truth of the matter is that because of the bills and the attorney’s cost, I cannot afford to get you the nice gifts you are used to from ‘Santa’ this year. I will get one or two things because your younger sister can still believe for a couple more years, but I do not want you to tell her about this conversation. If she asks, I want you to tell her that you are older, so things are different for you.”
I agreed, although I was outraged. My little sister was only two and a half years younger and she would get presents, and I would not! But my responsible side kicked in and I realized that this would help mom, so I did as she requested. I left the room quietly, and said nothing to my sister.
Around the same time, Mom started dating a man at work. We went with her to visit him on Christmas Eve, since he had caught a bad cold, and she wanted to care for him. We amused ourselves by running around, turning all the lights on and off in his huge house. He laughed, but did not scold us. After the visit, we drove home, Mom telling us we had to be home by midnight so that Santa would not miss us. I snorted and turned to look out the window.
The next morning, my sister rose in typical Christmas Day excitement. I followed her slowly out to the tree. Mom told us some tale about helping Santa fix the Christmas Tree lights, since the cat had tried to eat them. But what shocked me was the presents. The space under the tree was full of them! I happily ripped into mine, scowling every time I saw “Santa” on the label. When I pulled her aside later, Mom told me that Roger had bought the presents, that he could not stand the idea of two little girls getting nothing for Christmas.
Ironically, I am thirty years old now, and my mother still gives me gifts at Christmas labeled “From Santa.” I sigh and shake my head, but we have never again discussed the matter.