On December 24, 1979, I feigned sleep to see if Santa really did exist. My bedroom looked out over the front porch of the apartment my mother and I lived in and there were no other ways in or out, sans jumping out a window. We had no chimney and while part of the magic of Santa is that there’s magic in the first place, I was convinced no fat ass could enter my house without first passing my bedroom window.
Only six-years-old, I think I somehow knew Santa was a hoax. But my heart raced as every creak of the house, brought on by wind or by weight, gave me cause to peel back the curtain’s edge and peer out into the night. My mother, sensing I was likely window stalking, came in to distract me. In the midst of her “go to sleep” orders, I heard something outside.
As I pulled back the curtain, I saw a large, long object just outside the front door. It was surrounded by shadow and covered in darkness. It wasn’t moving, but it hadn’t been there before. There were no reindeer or elves, or little fat men in red. Just a big, dark mass.
I thought to myself, “An elephant took a dump on my porch?!”
(Skeptical of Santa, but convinced a 3,000 pound pachyderm defecated on an Eastern Kentucky doorstep, site and sound unseen. Ahhhh the luxury of being six.)
Mom distracted me again, seemingly for just seconds, then left the room. I looked back outside and the mass was gone.
I would have screamed, “WTF?!” had I known what that meant. Fortunately, Internet Relay Chat was a few years off, so I yelled something appropriately inappropriate for the times.
My mother came back in the room and looked out of the window with me. I explained the elephant poop and then the absence of it and blathered on about whether or not this was an act of Santa or Marlin Perkins. I suppose in my excitement, I finally gave up, gave out and went to sleep.
The next morning, a shiny, new, Schwinn, faux motorcycle, chopper bicycle was parked in front of the Christmas tree. I’m sure it was plastic with bad stickers, but it looked like all chrome and hand-painted, with custom flames shooting down either side of the body. The front axil seemed to be nine feet long. I was going to have the biggest, baddest bike on the street. I may even need to start wearing shades!
Mom and her boyfriend convinced me I caught Santa in the act of coming into the house, that the big, dark mass was the bike under a blanket and that I almost busted Santa’s cover.
It was another couple of years before I gave up on the fairy tale.
That night rekindled a bit of Christmas mystery and wonder for me. Sure, it was as elaborate a ruse as my single-parent mom could finagle with an over-curious and too-smart-for-his-own-good son. But it helped me not grow up too quick.
It’s easy for us to get distracted with our lives and adulthood, deadlines and responsibilities. The dog-eat-dog environment of business has forced us into 70-hour work weeks and not enough vacations and under-promise, over-deliver work ethics. We don’t spend enough time with our families and no time taking care of ourselves anymore.
Maybe that’s something worth focusing on this holiday season: Let the magic back in and be a kid again for a few days. Forget deadlines and meetings. And maybe this can be encouragement to do that more often … claim back a bit of our sanity and our hours on the clock.
“Balance” is something we talk about having in work and in life. But we don’t practice what we preach. We think it’s impossible. But it’s not.
And I know because for two years of my life, I drove the biggest, baddest bike on Jay Street. I even wore shades.
But I believed in Santa Claus.
Whether you recognize or celebrate it or not, I hope your holiday is merry.