As a child, Christmas was my absolute FAVORITE holiday. Everything about it made me happy: my father making Aunt Mil’s famous fruit cake (it’s literally a brick of flour). Watching my mother wrap elaborate gifts to send to her home state of Wisconsin. Wearing puffy holiday dresses that would invite me to act as a human conductor and then zap me if I touched anything. Decorating the house with Christmas paraphernalia…the list goes on and on. The most distinct memory I have for Christmas growing up was calling Santa at the North Pole on Christmas Eve and waking up with a bright orange kiss mark Santa had left on my cheek.
Every Christmas Eve, my father would pull out the yellow pages and theatrically look up Santa’s number. I’d beg and plead with him to let ME look him up; after all, I knew the alphabet, and I knew that his last name started with a C. This wasn’t exactly heavy lifting. But each time he’d say nope, Mah-grett, only paya-rhentts can look the num-bah up. I would squirm as he dialed the numbers and called Santa’s home at the North Pole, ask to speak to Santa, and finally, he’d hand the phone to me. SANTA?!!! I would exclaim. Hi Santa! It’s Margaret! Santa would lovingly proclaim: MAAH-GRETT! How ahh yah! Have yah been a good girl this yee-yah? Have yah been nice teh yah pah-rents? Yes, Santa, I have. I HAVE! Well, ok, Mah-grett, I’m gittin’ pretty busy up he-yah at the Nawth Pole, so what is it you REALLY want this yee-yah? I would smile and giggle and tell him what I wanted while he promised that our house was the first house he’d deliver gifts to; and of course I believed him. One year, my father dialed the number, handed it to me, I salivated while listening to each ring, and someone picked up. HELLO? The brusk voice answered. SANTA!!! I exclaimed. Oh!!! This must be Mah-grett! This is one’ve Santa’s elves…yah…he’s really busy Mah-grett, but he was expectin’ yo-wah call! (Some shuffling of hands and muffled voices ensued and soon, Santa was on the phone.) SANTA! I squealed.
This tradition lasted until 3rd grade, until Esme and another guilty party whom shall remain nameless cornered me in Mr. Pisani’s class at recess. Santa doesn’t exist they proclaimed. Children have such a blind faith, such a trust that is felt with their hearts and not the physical realm that surrounds us; why wouldn’t I believe in Santa? I loved and trusted my parents, and if they told me he was real, then he must have been. Not just the blind unadulterated faith, but he left physical evidence of being in my house: trails of candy canes from my room down the stairs arriving at a bountiful stocking with gifts pouring out of it; half eaten cookies were strewn in the fire place, and even carrots were nibbled on and found in our front yard. Let’s not forget about the orange kiss mark found on my cheek on Christmas morning. Santa totally existed. But alas, he was a mere fable. I had a lot of questions I needed answered.
Who was Santa? How did I talk to him? How did he leave a kiss mark on my face? Turns out, the orange kiss mark was my mother (I always thought it odd he had the same Estee Lauder Florida Orange as my mom). One mystery down and one to go. Who did I speak to all those years? How did he know me so well, and where I lived? What my sister’s name was? Turns out, Santa was Uncle Kevin in Melrose. Jimmy (my cousin) was the elf.
Years later I was watching a holiday movie when it dawned on me: in my mind, Santa always had a Boston accent. And always will.