I’ll never forget the day my mom sat us down to break the news to us. “There is no Santa Claus, it’s just your father and I.” She said it in the tone of voice that someone would use when they’re telling you something obvious and trying to be serious about it. My brother and I, of course, smiled and laughed because we had already figured it out, and Mom knew that. It was her way of saying she wasn’t going to bother writing “From Santa” on half of the gifts we received that year or going forward.
I wish there was still a Santa Claus.
Santa didn’t always bring things we wanted, but we did get things we needed. When you’re a kid, getting clothes from Santa is the worst thing ever, especially if the big guy gives you socks and underwear. Once you’re an adult, socks and underwear are the greatest things you can receive, especially as a woman. Regular clothes should never be purchased by anyone other than whoever is wearing them, though, because I’ve received so many shirts that I didn’t really like and that weren’t my style. Then again, I can’t complain because I still had enough to wear and could go without wearing whatever I didn’t like.
We really weren’t spoiled as kids. We received a moderate amount of gifts, and it was a combination of toys and practical goods. We never got every toy we asked for. We sometimes got toys we didn’t ask for because our parents thought we’d like the toy anyway, and they usually guessed well.
I’ve had a couple moments when I was, for lack of a better term, an “ungrateful little shit.” The first time it was over one item, which my grandma never let me forget, and it eventually became a running joke between my grandma, my mom and myself. The second time I recall, yet somewhat vaguely, was the first Christmas after Dad passed away. Without him around, fewer gifts were purchased, and in my grief and lack of thoughtfulness and tact I said something along the lines of, “is that all?” There was a lot of shouting that day, I remember, shouting and tears. I wouldn’t have thought of that Christmas if I wasn’t talking about it with my brother yesterday, as it seems like I’ve repressed the memory of the entire year.
The first year without Mom wasn’t too different from the first year without Dad. I was trying to remember when I took my ex to church with me for Christmas Eve services, only to recall that it wasn’t last year but the year before. The first Christmas without Mom, I was keeping busy with moving to New Jersey. I didn’t have a Christmas tree. I had a Jewish boyfriend, and I vaguely remember his family giving me a few gifts but I don’t remember which Christmas they did that. With everything going on, I had enough to forget that I was without my Mom, yet it was all enough to be reminded that things were going to be different from then on.
Once you lose your parents, Christmas becomes “the last day you really have to deal with Christmas stuff.” It’s the same day for everyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, except you actually want to celebrate but can’t do it. When you’d normally spend the month anticipating what you might get and trying to express what you really want, your new normal is more indecisive and apathetic. Unless you have other people in your life who care about you and are looking out for you, don’t expect any gifts unless you give to people who are sure to reciprocate. No matter how many lights you put on the tree, it won’t have the same glow as it once did. At least, that’s all true for me.
If I had to pick one parent to bring back and be Santa, I would choose Mom. She was better with money, and she was the one buying more of the practical gifts. Don’t get me wrong, I was Daddy’s Little Girl, and I could probably get whatever I wanted from Dad as long as it was a reasonable request. But when you’ve moved out and lived on your own, you realize that practical needs are more important than just getting whatever you want. I could see myself asking for kitchen goods, which Mom would definitely be willing to supply.
Then again, I can also see myself talking to my Dad about things I want to order from Japan, so I might get more bento tools or I might be taken to get pictures done for a passport and then surprised with plane tickets to Tokyo. The unfortunate side of that is, as I said, Dad wasn’t as good with money. I might return from Japan with a few things I couldn’t put down, only to find that Dad had to sell some collectible goods to make ends meet while I was gone.
He brought in a decent income, but had an equally decent amount of credit card debt. We lived in a house with two cars, and things would routinely break or need repairs. With my parents both being about forty years older than I was, their health wasn’t the best, and Dad was familiar with a few cardiologists in the area.
The only way to keep your sanity while having to pay for home repairs and health care was to buy some kind of a diversion. Those diversions became an Ouroboros at times, when having to pay for the new thing meant selling off the old thing.
It’s usually fine if you don’t have a use for what you’re selling, as it was fine that he sold an electric guitar I wouldn’t have used though it was quite beautiful to me. It’s another thing when an item has a lot of value, and not just in terms of its financial value. I didn’t realize that guitar was a Les Paul, and I would have sold a kidney if it could have stopped him from selling the guitar. I’d keep the guitar because it was a guitar, let’s be honest.
But would I rather have the guitar, or my Dad back? I suppose it is just a guitar, and it can be replaced even if the next guitar isn’t the same. But I can’t replace Dad. I don’t think less of him because of the financial woes we faced, because we were never poor, we had decent things and always had enough to go around.
And I can’t replace Mom. She was truly the heart of the household, and she would have made certain that we didn’t need a thing, even if that meant teaching us to be personally responsible so we didn’t have to rely on her or anyone else for any of the basic needs.
If my Christmas still had a Santa, I know what I’d ask for. I know that I’m fine without receiving gifts. I know there’s things I might need from time to time, but I can buy them for myself. Christmas is not the same without my parents, and they’re the only things I truly want for the holidays.
And I want snow, because I realized one year that I can’t look at outdoor lights and decorations if they’re not covered in snow. I have snow where I am, so I’m doing all right.