It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…exactly a month to go before Christmas Eve. I admit I have never really been a Christmas person. I find Christmases all too commercialized and the holiday rush just seems so, so superficial. My husband is my exact opposite. He plays Christmas songs on the month of September because, he says, it’s already a -ber month, and he gets a certain kind of high seeing all the Christmas decors and lights in the malls. I think Zoe takes after her dad because as early as October, she would watch The Day Elmo Saved Christmas everyday. “Mommy, atch Elmo, atch anta” [Mommy, watch Elmo, Watch Santa], is what she would say, over and over again, until I give in and let her. She loves the part where Santa Claus gets stuck in the chimney and Elmo pulls Santa. Zoe knows that scene by heart and she would act it out to us, huffing and straining, as if she was the one pulling a heavy Santa down the chimney. She has come to love this big, bearded fellow in the red suit, so much in fact that she carries what’s left of a Santa toy she got from last Christmas. The toy is a wind-up Santa doll that plays the drum, but the drum has disappeared, and Santa’s boots and legs are nowhere to be found. But Zoe doesn’t mind at all, she would cuddle it and kiss it, and put a blanket over it, never mind if it looked more like a toy from a freak show next to Chuckie.
I’ve come to realize that Santa Claus has invaded my child’s mind too much when, this morning, Zoe had a little argument with her dad:
Zoe: Wow, kismas tee (marveling at the unassembled tree in a dusty box)!
Dad: Yes, Christmas is near. We’ll celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
Zoe: (looks at her dad and corrects him) Santa.
Dad: No, it’s the birthday of Jesus.
Zoe: (looks her dad in the eye, goes closer, not so sure but trying to sound more convincing) San-ta!
First the purple dinosaur, then the little red monster from Sesame Street, and now Santa! I admit I have also fallen for this guy in the red suit. For years I have written him letters and letters, telling him what a good girl I’ve been and, at the end of my letter, as if the idea just popped out of my head, I would ask him for a gift. I would also receive letters from Santa, letters that would praise me for being good and instructions to be kind and caring to my siblings and loving to my parents. Holding the letter in my hand was a magical moment for me. I bought the whole Santa story until I was, I think, 10. The truth wasn’t confessed to me in a dramatical sort of way. I kinda knew anyway that my parents were playing Santa but I just couldn’t catch them red-handed. It came on a day quite far from Christmas, it was a lazy morning and we kids were eager to buy our taho from our suki. My mom asked me to get a few bills from her wallet. After getting the bills, I fumbled in my mom’s wallet some more. This I enjoy doing a lot, marvelling at the many divisions of her wallet, looking at the pictures, the notes, and the calling cards. Then, I felt something in one of the pockets that felt so, so strange, like it was not supposed to be there. Lo and behold, I saw a tooth! My tooth, to be exact! One of the many teeth I left under my pillow for the tooth fairy to get and replace with a five-peso bill! It finally got to me that my mom has been playing tooth fairy all these years I’ve been falling teeth, and the truth suddenly hit me that if she was the tooth fairy, then Santa wasn’t far behind. And so I asked my mom calmly. I asked her first if she was the tooth fairy. At first I could see she was squirming, wasn’t sure if she’d give an alibi, but I showed her the tooth I pulled out of her wallet and that was evidence enough. And so I prodded her a little more and asked her for the truth and nothing but. Was she Santa Claus? All my mom could do was nod a yes and warned me sternly not to give her away to my siblings because it will spoil their Christmas. That was the day I grew an inch taller. I felt more adult than ever, pledging allegiance to a secret unknown to kids all over the world.
Now that I’m a mom, it’s my turn to play Santa, together with my husband. The whole Christmas story will have to wait a few more years. I’m starting to tell Zoe about it…how Christmas all began, and I know she’ll find a deeper meaning into the holidays in the years to come. For now I’ll let her have her fill of Santa Claus and the reindeers, and Santa’s gifts under the tree and in the stockings, and, of course, the tooth fairy. And I’ll make sure her tooth doesn’t stay in my wallet…I’m gonna flush it down the toilet!
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