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by Peter Koronakos

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Jo-Ann Birch

The Truth About Santa

I never wanted to go down the Santa Claus path with our son.  It just couldn’t end in a good way.

When our son was nine, we decided to get him a bike for Christmas.  He has a talent for trail riding and jumping, so we got him a good bike, a Trek bike.  The look of joy on his face was one of those moments that parents treasure – the ability to make a kid’s dream come true.

Later that day, his other mom, my wife told him, “that bike had to come from Santa because we could never afford a bike like that,” thereby taking Santa out of the imaginary into the real world of numbers, money and budgets.  I shuddered.

By August of the next year, when he was ten, he began lobbying for Christmas gifts but now Santa had become a pie in the sky ATM machine, “Mom, I want a speed boat for Lake Tahoe.”

“Oh sweetheart, I don’t think a boy your age can have a speed boat, it’s just not appropriate and way too expensive.”

“But if Santa could get me my bike, he can get me anything.”

Santa was now a runaway train and although derailing it was likely to be painful, someone had to stop it.  I tried talking to my wife about it.  “Oh let him believe in Santa.  What can it hurt?”  But, I was growing more and more uncomfortable.

Finally, in late summer, his bike got a flat.  I wanted to take it back to the shop in Aptos where we bought it because they will repair the bike for free for the entire life of the bike.  It was part of the deal of buying a good one.

“Where are you going?” he asked as we drove the car with the bike rack towards Aptos.

“I’m taking it to Epicenter Cycle.  They can fix it.”

“No mom, take it to Family Cycle, where we take my other bike.”

“I’m taking it to Epicenter.  They can fix it for us.”

“No, I want to it to go to Family Cycle.”

And here was the moment.  A place where once I crossed over, there was no going back.

“We're going to take it to Epicenter because that is where we bought it and they know the bike and will fix it for free.”

Through the rearview mirror I watched his face break into long shards of disappointment, a window shattering.  The recognition of a lie he had suspected for months was realized as he uttered, “You mean it didn’t come from Santa?”

I pulled the car over but continued to converse with him through the rearview mirror, hoping the little distance would help him save face.  “I’m sorry buddy, but the bike came from the shop in Aptos.  We bought it for you on behalf of Santa.”

“You mean you lied to me all these years?”

“Yes, we did lie about the bike, but the spirit of Christmas is real and Santa is a part of that spirit, but he doesn’t really bring presents to children.”

“So now my parents are liars.” 

He was crying.  I climbed into the backseat, “I’m so sorry buddy.”

“I should have known.  There were never any boot prints from the chimney ashes.  I should have known.”

I repeated how sorry I was and held him.  As hard as this was, I was glad to have gotten the truth out.  Like a convict after a confession, I felt some peace.  I didn’t have to keep up the charade of Santa.

Every year my wife insisted we get different patterned paper in which only Santa’s gifts were to be wrapped and then it was my job to hide the paper in the attic so he couldn't find it.  She did stockings for each of us and filled them with little toys and treats.  And she half-ate the carrots, cookies and milk on Christmas Eve.

As guilty as I felt, I was glad it was coming from me and not some schoolyard thug, or his Jewish cousins whom we were going to spend Christmas with that year, who tolerated Christmas alright but certainly not Santa.

I had to believe I did the right thing and that he would eventually forgive me.

Once he was asleep that night, after another round of crying and “Santa meant a lot to me,” I braced myself for my wife's reaction.

“You should have talked to me before you spoke to him.  You really fucked up.  You caused damage that was unnecessary.”

“Really?  I think I corrected a story that had been causing damage for some time.  Santa had passed the point of benefit and was now falling into diminishing returns.  My God, he thinks Santa is going to bring him a speed boat for Lake Tahoe.”

“It was the beginning of his believing in a spiritual world.  I liked that he believed in Santa.”

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t keep lying.” I walked away and slept in the guest room that night. 

Jo-Ann Birch started writing poetry and short stories while attending UCSC in the 90s. She writes about being a mother, her Canadian upbringing and the dailyness of life. She has published two collections of poetry: Dewdrop and A Place to Fall Into.

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