The Year Without A Santa Claus
Most children who grew up in a middle class home can probably remember one or two Christmas mornings that stick out above all others. However, how many out there had a Christmas morning where you woke up and found that Santa had left plenty for your sisters and brothers, but nothing for you? Well, I’m about to tell a true story about that happening to ME!
I was nine or ten years old, living in Niagara Falls and already past the age where I believed that Santa visited my house in the middle of the night. I had also gotten to an age where my parents realized I was no longer that cute, first born that brought joy into their lives 24-7. In fact, my behavior had gotten to the point where my parents had actually warned me that if I didn’t clean up my act I would find nothing under the tree Christmas morning.
I of course ignored the warnings, even on the night of Christmas Eve as we were eating our traditional dinner with my Aunt’s family. I was running around the house being a real pain, teasing my younger sisters, ignoring requests to keep it down. My Mom gave the final warning, “I’m telling you if you don’t start listening you’re not getting anything for Christmas.” Of course I laughed it off and figured Mom and Dad were bluffing. I mean, come on, the odds were 1,000 to 1 that I would wake up on Christmas morning and not find gifts under the tree.
I still remember that night that the Christmas tree had gifts under it that had been brought over from various relatives, neatly piled for my two sisters and myself. I knew that in the morning, those gifts would be overshadowed and pushed aside by the large pile of wrapped and un-wrapped gifts we all would receive from “Santa”. I had no doubts that it would be the typical glorious Christmas morning, as always.
As I placed my head on my pillow that night I had high expectations of what the morning would bring, forgetting any threat my pareants had made that my behavior would have consequences.I was about to be very sadly mistaken.
At the break of dawn we all bolted down the stairs and into the living room. My Mom and Dad followed behind, still a bit blurry eyed from a late night at my Aunt’s annual Christmas Eve bash. As expected the room was filled with glorious presents for my sisters, but nothing new for me. That small pile which had been there for me the night before had not changed one bit.
I was more surprised than disappointed at that point and quickly decided that I would not show my disappointment and ask where my gifts were. At the ripe old age of ten I had decided this would be a battle of wills and I would not give my parents the satisfaction of knowing they had won. However, on the inside I was crushed that I was shut out on Christmas morning.
I proceeded to open my gifts left for me by my Godmother, Aunts and Uncles and even proudly held them up for my Dad as he took home movies. I donned an authentic looking army uniform, the rage in the early 60’s for adolescent boys and ran around the living room wearing with a plastic monkee division helmet and waving a toy army machine gun as my Dad filmed the scene with his old fashioned film camera. I acted as if this was any other Christmas morning, despite the fact I had just experienced one of the biggest disappointments in my relatively young life.
When the gift opening was over we had breakfast, went to Mass and then returned home for a nice Christmas dinner. While Mom prepared the meal I went two houses down the street to my cousin Tony’s house to see what he had found under his tree. The two of us played with his toys and his teenage sister Linda came in the room and asked what I had gotten for Christmas. When I told her I nothing from my parents she was shocked, but tried to hide her surprise and went into the other room to ask her Mom if it was true. I still vividly remember my Aunt grabbing the phone and calling my Mom, trying to keep her voice down while she asked how she could actually go through with her threat.
I then played for a short time at my cousin’s house when the the phone rang and it was my mother calling for me to come home for dinner. At that age, playing with my cousin’s toys was more interesting than Christmas dinner, but not having a choice I put on my coat and headed home for Christmas ham.
I walked in my house and one of my parents told me to clean up the gift wrappings that had still remained scattered around the living room where we had left them earlier in the morning. I wanted to get this small chore done so we could eat and bent over quickly grabbing the colorful torn pieces of paper and bows. As I did this I unknowingly followed a path that had been laid out for me by my parents.
I had my head down, working my way around the Christmas tree, when I literally stumbled upon a large pile of unwrapped toys. I quickly realized that they had been placed there for me to discover and I was genuinely stunned. It was a veritable cornucopia of presents, including a table top hockey game, more army gear, a football helmet and more.
I was speechless and dropped my “tough guy” act and hugged both my parents, promising to behave as they had requested from that point forward. I don’t know what their original plan was, but the manner in which I discovered my gifts was equal to any other Christmas morning I had walked into that room. It had It turned out to be one of the most memorable Christmases I would ever experience and some forty some years later I still find it incredible that my parents stuck to their guns to teach me a lesson on that day of days.
I realized years later that because my parents had grown up during the lean economic years of the 1930’s and 40’s they were used to celebrating Christmas without much of anything under the tree. In fact, my Dad had told me that he had several Christmas mornings where a tangerine or orange was the most expensive a gift that he would receive. Because of that my Dad always made sure our Christmas experience was much different than what he had lived through. However, he also knew that finding nothing under the tree was something I could survie, at least for a few hours.
It certainly left an impression on me and I never doubted my parents resolve after that day. It also left me with a story that I had told my three sons as a warning to them when they were younger. In truth, I enjoy Christmas morning too much to withhold presents from my own sons. Plus, I have to admit that they are better behaved than I ever was at their age.
Yes, Santa still comes to my house because I’ll never forget the year he almost passed me by.