Saturday, December 25, 2010

On Santa...

Fact: As children, we believe what were told even when it defies common sense. And no situation could be a better example of this than in the case of the Big Man, Mr. Jolly, aka Santa Claus.

At the Dion household, our Christmas Eve tradition consisted of attending 4:00 p.m. Mass and then we'd go out to dinner.  We tried to fancy it up a bit and went to The Ground Round one year, but my brothers nearly got us thrown out by hitting other patrons with peanut shells. (You couldn't take those two anywhere nice. They were animals.)  As an aside, a few years later I would refuse to ever go to The Ground Round again after a terrifying ordeal involving my Dad forcing me to participate in the restaurant's 'Pay What You Weigh' kids program.  At no age should a female ever have to get on a scale in a restaurant in front of her whole family and restaurant waitstaff.  But I digress.

After The Ground Round was out for the Christmas Eve feast, Arby's was the next most logical choice.  It was about the only fast food place open on holidays back then, and it was conveniently right next door to our church. So, over the years, Arby's became synonymous with Christmas.  That's right, while other kids had visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, I was dreaming of roast beef with coagulated cheddar on an onion roll.  To this day, I cannot eat Arby's without being reminded of the Holidays.

While always enjoyable, something was always "off" about this yearly outing.  Mom wasn't feeling well, or Dad wasn't feeling well, or we had to take separate cars, or one of them had to leave early for some reason.  And then magically, when we arrived home stuffed full of curly fries, whichever parent had the yearly duty of staying home would shout, "Santa came!"  A boatload of presents had arrived, extending from beneath the Christmas tree and halfway across the living room in all their glory and possibility. 

"What?!  He came while we were out... again?!" I'd scream in disbelief, year after year.  One cold Christmas Eve night, my mom ushered me to the back patio door to prove Santa and his reindeer did indeed stop by.  "Look here," she said.  And she pointed to Rudolph's hoof prints on the frosted pane of the sliding glass door. "Wow!!!" I cooed delightfully.  I completely bought it-- hook, line and sinker.

As I got older, I began comparing Santa notes with my friends and observing glaring inconsistencies.  (Incidentally, this was about the same age I started boycotting The Ground Round.)  Apparently Santa came to my neighbors' houses overnight, but would arrive approximately between 4-6 p.m. at my house. My mom told me that Santa made a special early trip for us, and that explanation seemed plausible... for a while.  With all the houses he had to deliver presents to in such a tight time span, Santa was making multiple trips to the same street in Cincinnati, Ohio?  It just didn't make any sense.  Between Santa's poor logistical planning, and the suspicious event each year whereby one of my parents couldn't make it to Mass/Arby's, it eventually came to my attention that this Santa thing might be a ruse.

Over the years, the meaning of Christmas has changed.  Rather than joyfully stuffing myself full of Arby's and happily wondering whether Santa arrived and what he brought me, today I worry about many calories are in my egg nog and nervously fret whether I'll get a Christmas bonus at work.  The traditions of my past are long gone, and I'm kind of in that in-between phase where we really don't do much for Christmas as a family.  It makes me sad a little bit, but also makes me look forward to the future.  I can't wait for the day that I go outside in the cold to make hoofprints on the frosted glass, and then excitedly wait for my son or daughter to come home and show them that Rudolph--in fact--was here. 

Traditions may change and die off over the years, but the magic of Santa Claus is always alive if you let it be.


Jane said...

Thanks for sharing the memories. We all have memories of Christmas--for better or worse. I completely identify with the "Ground Round experience." I was an adult, but any restaurant with a scale in it struck fear in my heart. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.

Gabrielle @ Weightless said...

Yeah, what a horrible business model... get on a scale in front of everyone right before ordering your dinner! I was mortified at the time, but it's funny to think back on now.

Thanks Jane - Merry Christmas to you too!

Anonymous said...

You didn't know I had my foot on the scale to make you weigh more so I could get a bigger discount on your meal. Have a Merry Christmas. Your old Dad