Timmy was 6 when he announced “I know there’s no such thing as Santa.” His sister Caryn, who was 4, and Cherie, who was 3, were definitely still believers. Cherie was still a baby and didn’t really have an opinion on Santa yet, but Timmy was sure of it. Or at least he thought he was.
“Tommy Phillips said his older brother told him.” Timmy told Mom.
“Well Tommy Phillips AND his older brother are wrong. There’s definitely a Santa Claus.”
“Tommy’s brother is almost 10, he should know.” Timmy said with the utmost confidence.
“Well, personally, I believe in Santa…but you have to decide for yourself. Santa’s kinda like love, you can’t see it but you know it’s there. In the meantime I think it would only confuse Tim and Caryn so maybe you shouldn’t say anything to them. You can tell your Dad, but don’t expect him to be sympathetic.”
He walked away unconvinced but dwelled on the Santa dilemma a lot over the next couple of days. On Christmas Eve he told his Dad, “OK, I figured out what to do about Santa.”
“Simple…I’m just gonna stay up and wait, that way I’ll see him if he comes and if he doesn’t then I’ll know it’s all a fake. I bet not even Tommy Phillips brother thought of that.”
“Great idea, Timmy.”
“And just so there’s proof I think you and Mom should stay up, too.”
“Dude, are you kidding? You know the rule, Santa doesn’t come until you’re sleeping. I’m not gonna blow my chances of getting presents by staying awake. “
“Then how will we know if it’s really him that leaves the presents? Tommy Phillips says his mom and dad leave their presents.”
“Hhmm, guess that creates a bit of a dilemma.”
“No Dad, I got it all figured out, I’ll just do an experiment. We’ll sit on the couch and wait to see if we hear him and when we do we pretend like we’re asleep but really we’ll just open our eyes a little and then we can see him, and if it’s really him I’ll jump up and take a picture with my camera, then I’ll have total proof”
“Wow, I never thought of that!” his dad said. “Well you know what, Mommy & I are too old to stay up all night, we’d fall asleep for real and totally blow your experiment. Why don’t you get Caryn and Cherie to stay up with you? Just don’t tell them it’s a test to see if there really is a Santa, they’re too young to understand and it’ll just confuse them. Besides, it might ruin the experiment.”
“Oh-kay!” he said as he ran to round up his brother and sisters to let them know about the plan.
Timmy was apprehensive. “But what if he doesn’t come cuz we’re awake?” He asked with dreadful concern, “He might not leave us any presents?”
“Santa’s not gonna leave us any presents?” Caryn asked on the brink of crying.
“No, no, no,” Timmy said trying to reassure her. He HAD to have them there, taking a picture wasn’t enough. He couldn’t just tell Tommy Phillips he saw Santa with no one to back up this story. “I’ve got it all figured out…” And he proceeded to give them all the details.
It was late before they finally succumbed to older brother pressure but by then even they thought it was a grand scheme. When it finally came time to go to bed they put on their jammies, grabbed their pillows, and plopped themselves down on the couch.
“But what about the cookies and milk?” Caryn asked quietly. “He’ll be expecting cookies and milk.”
“You know what sweetie,” her mom said stroking her hair, “You’re absolutely right. Santa works hard, he needs some cookies and milk to keep up his strength.”
When she came back with the tray the three of them were finessing the plan with their Dad. “So if any of us sees the other one falling asleep we’ll wake them up,” the ringleader explained, “And we’ll take turns. Caryn can go first because she’s the youngest, then Timmy, then me. I’ll go last cause I’m the oldest and can stay awake longer.”
“That sounds like the perfect plan my man.” His dad said as he pulled the big comfy afghan off the back of the couch and put it over all three of them. “Now make sure you actually look like you’re sleeping when…”
“You mean if….” Timmy whispered.
“When…you see Santa. I don’t want to get zilch for Christmas just because one of you jokers is giggling with your eyes closed,” Their dad said, which immediately made Caryn giggle.
“Yeah Caryn,” Timmy and Timmy said at the same time.
“OK you guys, good luck with your experiment, we’re tired. We’re going to bed.” Dad said.
“I just have one rule,” Mom said, After he comes…”
“You mean if…” Timmy whispered.
‘After…he comes you can talk to him but UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANSES are you to lay one hand on any presents before you come and wake us up. Am I clear?”
“Yeah, but what if he tells us it’s OK?” Timmy asked.
“I overrule Santa on this one, it is not OK,” she replied in her firm don’t-even-think-about-it voice.
“But what if we forget?” Caryn asked shyly.
“Well you better not forget,” Dad replied in his and-I-mean-it voice.
Mom came up with a solution, “I’ll tell you what. Lets put a big ribbon on the TV, and one on the tree, and one by the cookies and when you see it it’ll remind you that the rule is NO TOUCHING PRESENTS WITHOUT YOUR FATHER AND ME. Think that’ll work?”
“Yeah!!” they said in unison as Mom taped big ribbons all over the place, “We won’t forget!”
“OK then, kids…sweat dreams…”
“WE”RE NOT SLEEPING MOM…”Timmy announced
“Right, I mean good luck…see you in the morning.” They gave their kids a goodnight kiss and left them to carry on, stopping to turn around and watch the lights of their lives get settled in to the task at hand.
“How long do you think it’ll take?” Dad asked as he wrapped her into a big bear hug, “I’ve still got about three hours of assembling to go.”
“Well normally I’d say give it 30 minutes, but they’re so hyped up I bet it takes an hour.”
But Timmy was nothing if not tenacious and it took almost a full two hours before all three of them were sound asleep.
Morning came quickly and the whole house was jerked to life in a split second by Timmys screams, “He came!! He came!!” which was soon joined by the delighted shrieks of his siblings. That was it. Tommy Phillips older brother didn’t know jack!! There, right in front of them, stood the fully lit tree surrounded by the biggest, shiniest, most wonderful pile of presents ever.
Timmy was so excited he couldn’t wait one second longer. Without thinking he jumped up as fast and as high as he could and landed right in front of a box that said To: Timmy From: Santa. He tore into the present like a pit bull into a five year old until he thrust a Lego Dino T-Rex Hunter set high above his head and looked over at Timmy and Caryn with a glazed-over look in his eyes. “Hhoollyy smokes!!…Just what I wanted!!!”
Tim and Caryn sat there speechless. Mouths hung open. Eyes wide with terror. Then slowly Caryn started to cry. “Timmy…the ribbons…they were supposed to remind us…”
The horror of what he had done was just beginning to dawn on him when Mommy came staggering into the living room half asleep and ran smack dab into the deadly quiet. “So kids, what happened??? Did you see San…” She stopped mid-question to the sight of Timmy sitting on the floor surrounded by the remnants of his frenzied attack, with the other two sitting on the couch sobbing.
Dad came into the room with the video camera rolling. “Awwww-right!!! It looks like there really is a Sant…oopps…Houston, we have a problem.”
“Oh Timmy…” Mommy said sadly. “You promised you wouldn’t touch anything before you woke us up.” Reality hit and Timmy started to loose it.
“I think you should go up to your room now.” the Mom said calmly.
“But Christmas!!” Timmy yelled as his meltdown started picking up steam, fueled by the wails of his siblings.
“Yeah well it’s a little late for that buster. Go on.” Dad said in his you’ve-got-about-five-seconds voice.
“But Christmas….” Timmy said in a small, defeated voice.
“We’ll get back to you on that, go on now.” Timmy knew his five seconds were up.
“I’ll take the kids, you go get coffee started. Quick.” Dad said. “And strong,” he added as she went to the kitchen. They spent the next hour getting Tim and Caryn to calm down as the four of them sat huddled together on the couch feeling like the worst of the worst had just run them over. “Man, that kid..” said the Dad
“He’s ruined Christmas for all of us,” Tim sniffled.
“Oh come on, don’t be a drama queen” Mom said. “Poor little guy, he probably just got so excited he couldn’t help himself.”
“The ribbons didn’t help, Mommy,” Caryn said as she held on tightly.
“I know honey. But I don’t think he meant to do it. What do you say we all go talk to him and tell him we’re disappointed but we understand and we can start over.”
His cries had calmed down to whimpers as they slowly opened the door. “Timmy, honey…come on, sit up, we want to talk to you.”
“I’m sorry!!” He blurted out between sobs, “I didn’t mean to, I couldn’t help it. I woke up and saw the presents and there really is a Santa and the next thing I knew I was getting sent to my room…”
“Awww, honey, it’s OK, we’re not mad we just want to talk to you,” his mom said in a vain attempt to quiet him down.
“Did I ruin Christmas?…I’m sorry!”
“You did not ruin Christmas, son,” his Dad said, “But you need to take a deep breath and stop crying now so we can talk.”
“But now Santa will think I don’t believe in him and we’ll never get presents again and everybody…will…hate…me…” The floodgates reopened.
“This sucks!” his Dad mouthed silently as he looked at his wife with his so-what-do-we-do-now? look as the other two kids joined Timmy in his anguish.
They all sat there for a few minutes, kids having a meltdown and adults trying to come up with a spur of the moment solution.
“I’ve got an idea,” Mom said, the kids looked at her through red-rimmed eyes, “Let’s call Santa and ask him.”
“Ask…him…what?” Timmy said with diminishing hysteria.
“Well, I think we should ask him if it’s OK that you doubted him but now you believe in him…and that if you’re sorry for what you did can we all open our presents and get on with Christmas…and if you try really, really hard all next year to stay calm and be good will he come back? What do you think?”
“Oh yeah,” Dad said skeptically, “Great idea. Let’s call Santa.”
“No really,” Mommy said putting her hand to Timmy’s cheek, “Do you think that would help you feel better sweetheart?”
“But what if Santa doesn’t have a cell phone?” Timmy chimed in.
“Oh trust me, he does. I just have to find my phone” Mom said as she got up to go get her phone muttering under her breath, “He’ll answer or I’ll kill him.”
She pulled her phone out of her purse and quick-dialed her brother. It was barely dawn and with no kids to wake him up it was highly doubtful that Chip would be awake this early, especially if he’d been to a Christmas party or had “company” or both. The phone rang and went to voicemail. “Shit” she said as she ended and pushed 3 again. “Come on Chip, answer the damn phone…” she prayed anxiously.
“Umm…hello…Pat? Are you OK?” came the sleep drenched voice tinged with a little bit of hang-over.
“Yes I’m fine, but listen…” she said quickly but quietly as she headed back to Timmy’s room.
“Oh this better be good”
“Shut up Chip! I’m gonna call you right back and you really, really need to just go along with it, do you understand?”
“Not in the least,” she heard him say as she ended the call.
“OK, I found it!” she said as she sat back down on Timmy’s bed. “Now let’s see what would Santa’s number be?” she asked looking at the kids with her finger poised on the keypad.
They were just barely sniffling now and the challenge of coming up with a phone number momentarily derailed their anguish and gave them something else to focus on. “Well I think maybe 9-1-1-I-need-a-drink…” Dad contributed.
“How about Santa-9-1-1,” Timmy tried.
“Oh that’s a good one, honey…let’s try that!” She pushed 3 as she faked the other seven numbers praying their favorite but slightly hungover uncle would pull through.
The phone rang twice before Chip answered, “Pat, what the…”
“Good morning Santa, it’s Pat Davis. Oh, you already know?” She covered the phone with her hand and looked at her kids, “He knew it was me!” she whispered. “So Santa, look, we’re having a little problem over here that we need your help with.”
“Are you kidding me?” Chip asked
“Oh absolutely not Santa” she said in her I-am-not-joking voice.
“What’d he say? What’d he say?” Timmy asked anxiously
“I heard that,” Chip said trying to get the haze out of his voice. “Did something happen?”
“Well, SANTA, you could say that.” Mom said.
“And now you’re talking in code and I’m supposed to be Santa?”
“Wow Santa, you know EVERYTHING!” She whispered to the kids…”Wow, he already knew!” She had their undivided attention.
“So can I put you on speaker phone so we can all hear you?”
“All? As in the whole damn family?” Chip asked, his head clearing quickly.
“Oh thank you Santa, I knew you’d understand,” and she pushed the speaker button. “Ok Santa, you’re on.”
You could have played a tune on the tension in the room as all five of them stared at the silent phone before they heard “Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho! Mer-ry Christ-mas!! Now what the hel…I mean…” Chip lowered his voice two registers, “What the heck is the problem down there in Texas?”
Mommy, Mommy…” Caryn jumped up, eyes like sausers. “It’s really Santa…you called Santa!”
“Well Caryn,”Santa said, “it doesn’t happen very often and only Mommies can call me so it means something has happened and my guess would be it was Timmy’s fault.” Santa said.
Timmy looked terrified. “He knows! He knows who were are and he knows what I did!” He uttered putting a death-grip on his Dad’s leg.
“Well of course I do, dude. I know everything.” Santa said in an incredulous tone that, Timmy felt, sounded somehow familiar. “But suppose you tell me what happened, and make it quick. The elfs got Mrs. Santa a new outfit from Victoria’s Secret and…”
“I’m sure it’s lovely, SANTA…” Mommy cut in, “But could we just deal with this first.”
“Oh yeah, sorry…so Timmy whadjado?”
Timmy wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Tommy Phillips started it, I didn’t want to believe him but his older brother, who’s 10, said we were just acting like kids so we stayed up all night to see you but we feel asleep and then when I woke up and saw all the presents and the cookies were gone and I knew you’d come and then I just got so excited I couldn’t help myself and now you’ll think I don’t believe in you and won’t come next year and…I…ruined…Christmas…” his confession poured out of him.
“Oh I see…” Santa said. “Buddy, you and Caryn and Cherie are some of the best kids on my list. I know you believe in me and I’m not mad…heck, kids all over the world do it all the time. Most of them pass out by 10 o’clock anyhow, plus I ALWAYS throw in a handful of sleepy powder before I go into a house so I don’t get busted by kids who are trying to stay awake to see if I really come…plus, I don’t want some dog humping my leg or biting me on the ass when I come down the chimney.”
“Daddy, Santa said ass…” Caryn said looking a little shocked.
Mom chimed in, “Uhmm that’s probably a good idea Santa, but could we stick with the topic? I guess you saw the ribbons all over to remind the kids not to touch any presents before Daddy and I got there?”
“Ribbons? Guess that didn’t work out so well for ya, did it?” laughed Santa as Dad chuckled out loud.
Caryn crawled up into her moms lap and asked the question they’d all been afraid of “Did Timmy ruin Christmas Santa?”
“What??? Ruin Christmas??? HO, HO, HO, HO, HO!! You bunch of goobers! Listen, Timmy….you did not ruin Christmas. Ok, maybe you had a little doubt then you got a little excited and maybe YOU SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO YOUR PARENTS… But ruin Christmas? You could never ruin Christmas unless you do something really, really bad like…oh, I don’t know…like not telling your Uncle Chip he’s like totally the best uncle ever…”
All three kids started looking hopeful. “So you’re not mad at me?” Timmy asked?
“Oh come on, buck up buttercups! Of course I’m not mad at you.”
“Hey….” Timmy said with a questioning raise of his eyebrows, “That’s what Uncle Chip says all the time. How’d you know about buttercup?”
“Oh dude, who do you think he got it from? I remember the year your mom and uncle tried to stay awake. She was a wimp so she fell asleep but your Uncle Chip, now he was one clever guy.” Mom rolled her eyes.
“Oh this is gonna be good.” Dad said.
“Oh, yeah… so I come down the chimney and there sits your Uncle Chip and Mommy. She’s totally asleep and he’s like half-way asleep and trying hard as he can to stay awake, but I’ve already doused the place with sleepy powder so I know he hasn’t got a chance but HE doesn’t know that…so anyway, he’s got all his army guys and stuff propped around him so every time he starts to fall over he lands on something and it wakes him up…p-r-e-t-t-y c-l-e-v-e-r…so just as I was starting to leave their presents he falls over and lands on the firetruck I’d left him the year before and the siren goes off and it shoots out this jet of water and totally soaks his pajamas and scares the dog who starts barking at me and next thing you know I look over and there’s Chip. Just staring at me. And I’m like, ‘Oh crap, I’m busted…’ and I look down at him and he’s looking up at me and says “Santa?” and I say “Dude, I’ve been doing this for thousands of years and you are the first kid to actually catch me, that’s so awesome…lame, but awesome! Man, now I guess I’m gonna have to take all these presents back.” And then he like totally lost it. He’s standing there crying and saying he ruined Christmas and everyone’s gonna hate him and stuff like that. Well, I felt so bad for him and I think, well I AM Santa so I guess I can do whatever I want, so I tell him, ‘Dude, come on….stop crying…Buck up butter cup!” Which makes him stop…so I put my hands on my hips and say “OK, how about you just promise me you’ll be good for the rest of your life and I’ll sprinkle a little extra sleepy powder on you and in the morning when you wake up all you’ll remember is that you just have to be good…forever…well, except when Pat is being a pain in the butt…and we’ll call it even. And that’s the true story.”
“Really?” Timmy said in his I’m-really-still-just-a-kid-even-though-I-desperately-want-to-be-grown-up voice.
“Yeah, really.” Santa told them. “And you know what you guys? Here’s the truth…all of you…as long as you always believe in Christmas, and as long as you always love your family and tell them you love them, and as long as you always try to be the change you want to see in the world, you can never…ever…ruin Christmas. Got it?
“Got it,” they all replied simultaneously.
“OK then…now buck up butter cups, Santa’s gotta go see if Mrs. Santa’s present fits.”
“Thank you Santa” Mom said softly, “You’re the best.”
“Yeah, I know. So maybe next year you could stop being so stingy with the cookies and put some Godiva in those extra chocolate chip cookies you’re gonna leave me? I’m just sayin’…”
“Good bye Santa…” Mom chuckled, “Give Mrs. Claus a kiss for me.”
“Oh I’ll give her more than a kiss…” she heard as she hung up.
Timmy was a little closer to the edge of grown-up the next Christmas and went over the edge the year after that when, out of the clear blue sky, Timmy announced to his parents, “I know there’s no Santa.” The silence was deafening. They looked at each other as Dad leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Maybe we should call Santa ahead of time with a heads up.”