Fonticulus Fides

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Short Story, Just for Grins...


Santa’s Bad List


In December 1969, while other children wrote long letters to Santa and yearned for a chance to sit on his lap, my brother and I were planning the jolly old elf’s demise.

The concept was a little beyond a five-year-old like me. “We could put glue in the fireplace, so his boots gets stuck when he slides down the chimney,” I suggested.

“We don’t have a fireplace,” Mike reminded me. At seven, he was much more learned about these things, so I waited silently while he worked out a strategy.

“I wish we had a big net,” he said finally. “He’d get all tangled up in it when he lands on our roof, and we could call the police to arrest him.”

It was a good plan, except for the lack of netting. Mike sighed. Ever his shadow, I sighed, too.

A year earlier, it had been a different story. We were so excited about Santa’s pending arrival, it was all we could talk about from the moment the Thanksgiving dishes were washed. Little did we know our attitude toward Kris Kringle was about to change forever.

A few days before Christmas, our dad suddenly came home from work in the middle of the afternoon and announced that Grandma was coming to stay with us while he took Mom on a little vacation.

“Vacation?” Mike sputtered. “Without us?”

Dad’s eyes twinkled. “Sorry, sport. It’s a top secret mission.”

“Where to?”

“The North Pole!”

I was dazzled by the prospects. “Will you see Santa?”

Dad tossed me up into the air. “Only to ask him to get you the very best present in the whole world!” He set me down on the floor next to Mike and squatted down in his Don’t-Mess-With-Daddy posture. “But if you give Grandma a moment’s trouble, I’ll tell Santa to put you on his Bad List and neither one of you will get a thing.”

We solemnly promised to be perfect angels. Grandma arrived and Mom pecked quick kisses on the tops of our heads as Dad hustled her out the door.

It was a little weird not having Mom and Dad there in the final days before Christmas, but Grandma kept us busy decorating the tree, baking cookies, and opening the cards that filled our mailbox. She believed that children needed fresh air even in chilly December. Which meant whenever the phone rang, she’d point to our coats, hats and mittens, and send us outside so she could talk in peace.

On Christmas Eve, Grandma looked a little worried when we went through our toys, tossing every one-armed doll, broken gadget, incomplete game and dingy Matchbox car into the trashcan. I figured she thought we were coming down with something because she’d never seen children clean the way we cleaned. But this demonstration of anti-materialism was meant to ensure a spot on Santa’s list of good girls and boys.

We only endangered ourselves by arguing about what present to expect. Mike predicted it would be a Lionel train set on the big table with all the little trees and buildings to put around it. I envisioned a gigantic dollhouse that I could live in with the new doll I was hoping to find in my stocking.

Grandma told us not to think about it so much. “Any gift you get will be something you didn’t have before,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what it is.”

Yeah, right.

Mike finally settled the argument by suggesting that we’d each get something that we wouldn’t have to share. Then we set to clearing out spaces in the basement playroom for my dollhouse and his train table.

I’d just made the difficult decision to part with all my Play-doh, and Mike was mulling over the merits of Tinker Toys when Dad called. We had a million questions about the North Pole but Grandma spent so much time on the phone with him, he was in too big of a hurry to talk to us for long.

“Make it quick, kids,” we heard him say as we wrestled for the receiver.

Stiff-arming me, Mike won the phone and cut to the chase. “Did you get our present?”

“You’ll see on Christmas morning!” Dad said he and mom loved us and reminded us to be good – or else.

That night, we set out a glass of milk and at least a dozen of our most artfully decorated sugar cookies for Santa. As Grandma tucked me into bed, I wondered, “When is Mommy coming home?”

“Pretty soon,” Grandma whispered. “Don’t worry. She’ll be here for Christmas.”

I must have dropped off while I was devising a way to stay awake until our parents got home. Before I knew it, my room was filled with sunlight. I leapt out of bed and ran across the hall to get Mike.

“It’s Christmas!” I grabbed the bedclothes, pulling them off him. “Let’s go get our presents!”

Mike came to life in an instant and raced me downstairs to the living room. As soon as I turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs, I felt a coldness in my stomach. We both stopped dead in our tracks.

There wasn’t one single present under the tree. Not one.

Mike swung around, grabbed his stocking from its place on the banister. Empty. So was mine.

I bawled. “We must be on Santa’s Bad List!”

“Shush!” Mike snapped at me. “Let me think!” He paced in front of the tree, which once looked so beautiful with lights and tinsel and ornaments, but now seemed entirely barren. I cried as quietly as I could, stifling an urge to scream for Mommy by chewing on the collar of my nightgown.

Suddenly, Mike pointed an accusing finger at me. “What did you do?”

“Nothing!”

“You must have done something, because I’ve been very good.”

“Me, too,” I howled.

The ruckus finally reached Grandma’s ears, and she hurried down to tell us to be quiet. Then Dad came stumbling down the stairs in his pajamas. “Now, now, kids,” he yawned. “What’s the fuss?”

Mom followed him in her bathrobe, carrying a tiny pink bundle. “Here, my darlings. Here’s your Christmas present! Meet your new baby sister, Mary Christine.” She sat down on an ottoman, holding back a fold of the blanket so we could see the blotchy little face in the pink knit cap.

We stared at the new creature, and for a long while, nobody spoke. Mom radiated happiness. Grandma smiled at us. Dad yawned again and rubbed his eyes.

It was Mike who broke the silence. “That’s not what I asked for,” he said. “I already have a baby sister. I wanted a train set.”

My tears started anew. “And I wanted a Betsy Wetsy doll!”

“Honey,” Mom soothed. “A real baby is better than a baby doll.”

“Not better than a Betsy Wetsy! Betsy Wetsy eats and cries and wets.”

“So will this baby,” Mike glowered. “Peeee-yoo!”

“Children!” Grandma chided us. “I’m sure Mary isn’t the only present Santa sent you…”

Dad cleared his throat. “Well...” he stammered, “here’s the thing…Mary was the…the limit for what we could get this year.”

Grandma’s spine stiffened. “Why didn’t you ask for my help?” she chided. “I would have made sure the children weren’t disappointed.” I almost stopped crying at the thought of Grandma in Santa’s Workshop, directing the elves to pack up this or that for me. Then I realized she probably would have chosen “practical” things like long underwear and alphabet flash cards, so I kept right on blubbering.

“You’ve done so much already,” protested our mother. “Besides, a new baby is the best gift anyone could ever ask for. I want the children to understand that.”

I cried harder. Mike was angry. “Great! All that being good…all those cookies we left for him, and all we get is that?”

Dad put his foot down. Literally. “That’s enough!” he shouted, stamping his foot in way that always got us to shut up. The noise woke Mary, and she produced an ear-splitting wail unlike anything I’d ever heard before.

Mom gathered Mary close to her heart and started walking and bouncing the baby at the same time. “Hush, baby….Hush now…” she crooned. At her instruction, Dad went to the kitchen to fix a bottle, mumbling something about coffee…Irish coffee. Grandma was dispatched for a clean diaper and a warmer blanket.

Mike knew what to do. “Come on. Let’s get dressed and go outside. We can get our toys out of the trash can.”

Taking his hand, I said, “I sure hope we don’t get put on Santa’s Bad List next year.”

“I don’t care,” Mike declared, glaring at the little baby with the incredibly loud voice. “Santa is the one that better watch out. He’s on our Bad List now.”


© 2004 SLHansen

2 Comments:

  • I loved it! I can just see a mini-Sparki and Mike heading out to the trashcan. Merry Christmas! A modern-day Ralphie and Randy. :)

    By Blogger Jeff, at 10:54 PM  

  • I have two siblings that were born shortly before Christmas, though years apart. We had to delay our own festivities for a couple days in one case, but I never really resented my sister for it.

    I can remember watching a Muppet Christmas special, the one with John Denver, with my brothers, the night before my (first)sister's birth. While my mom was timing her contractions, my dad's sister was giving her a manicure. Merry Christmas.

    By Blogger St. Jimbob of the Apokalypse, at 1:27 PM  

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