Do you know what I discovered a long time ago? I don’t believe in Santa—never did as far as I can tell because he never came to my piss-poor neighborhood on Christmas Eve. He was such a foreign entity that for years I misspoke his name and thought it was “Sandy Claws.” The first time I ran into a rather inebriated, raggedy white Santa was at an orphan charity event in an enormous warehouse with hundreds of other foster kids, and even though I asked for a father Sandy Claws gave me a used handbag. Of course, there was a good chance that most of the kids in that warehouse were asking for the same thing, and Santa might have run out of fathers by the time he got to me. Just sayin’—to be fair.
I never taught my children to believe in Santa Claus. First of all, we lived in Israel the first few years of their lives, and it seemed an unnecessary burden to saddle little kids with the concept of a fictional character laden with presents, who would come to our house but didn’t bother going to the houses of our Israeli neighbors. Besides, my kids were already shouldering the burden of believing in Jesus—the Son of God—born to a virgin and a carpenter just a few miles south of their home town. Also, my husband and I had worked our asses off for the gifts we gave them and felt the hero worship should flow back to their very caring and loving parents who were sacrificing on a daily basis to give them a wonderful life.
Consequently, my only grandson doesn’t believe in Santa Claus because my daughters chose to follow my lead. But his grandfather, my husband (WW), believed in SC until he was twelve years old. (For my Johnny-come-lately readers, my husband is white and grew up in a very white, very middle-class, and very Norman Rockwell household and neighborhood. Santa was practically a god in their home, and he went to every house in the town except for the poor black children and the Jews—at first. But then many of the Jews in the town, who were very wealthy, got pressured by their kids to add a Christmas tree during Chanukah and introduce Santa along with the menorah (much to the chagrin of the local rabbi), so that they could keep up with the Goyim. The poor little black kids in the town, on the other hand, didn’t have parents with enough money to get a nod from white Santa, soooo “bupkis mit kuduchas” which is Yiddish for “shivering shit balls!”) When my husband accidentally found out that Santa didn’t exist, he had already exorcised the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny from his heart, and God got the boot shortly afterwards. His twelve-year-old theory was “if the parents lied to me about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, why should I believe them about God?” Good point.
Cartoon by Dan Piraro: www.bizarro.com
My six-year-old grandson didn’t need to be told there wasn’t a Santa. He figured it out almost from the beginning of his travels on Earth and has been taking his requests to the Big Guy ever since. Because all of his prayers to date have been answered except for one (can’t share his one unanswered prayer—he asked me to keep it confidential), Little Dude is quite confident in his knowledge and faith of God. (One Christmas, when he was five years old, he stuck a declarative Post-it note on my refrigerator like Martin Luther did on the Wittenberg Door which read: “I love Gob.” I didn’t bother to point out his backward “d” and he didn’t bother to tell me why he wrote the note and posted it on my refrigerator. It’s still there to help me through my bouts of daily doubts.)
Me-Maw’s boy thinks it’s a very cool concept that God found a way to infuse the Earth with his presence by slipping in incognito as a baby through a mommy named Mary. Unlike it does to most adults, this makes perfectly good sense to Little Dude, because mommies are just about the coolest things on Earth (“except when they take things much too seriously,” as he has been heard to pontificate on occasion). And if you asked him why Jesus decided to introduce himself to the Earth in such an inauspicious way as a baby, he’d probably answer: “Why not?”
Cartoon Used by Permission: Bill Day, Cagle Cartoons
Quite recently my grandson revealed his thought process as to the gift-giving system he is sure that God has set up between Himself and mankind. Ever since Little Dude was a baby he has traveled underground on the subway, above ground on the bus, or occasionally taken taxis to his various destinations. It soon became apparent to him that taxis were the preferred method of getting from point A to point B, especially after getting stuck at eye level in a sea of adult asses—barely able to breathe—squishing him during rush hour as he waited for the next train to pull into the station. He hated the subway with a passion and would throw a hissy fit every time he had to descend the underground stairway. His final outcry to God to send his family a car had to have been when he ran face first into a subway tunnel pole (almost knocking him out cold) while trying to keep up with his mom as they ran to catch the train home from school.
Fast forward six months after Little Dude’s “kissing-the-subway-pole incident,” and my grandson can be seen comfortably perched in the car seat/backseat of his new family car that he has made no bones about letting people know he asked God for. He is languidly sipping from a strawberry/banana juice box, snacking on chicken nuggets, and reading his latest National Geographic Kids Magazine (did I forget to mention that he’s brilliant?). His mommy breaks his concentration by uttering a “soto voce” prayer that is often heard on the lips of city drivers: “Oh God, please give me a parking space.” She has been driving around and around for twenty minutes in NYC trying to find a place that is within at least a half-mile of their apartment. (As most city dwellers know, getting a decent parking place can mean the difference between only having to carry several bags of groceries and your child a few yards to your home or getting towed and spending a king’s ransom to retrieve your car.) But as my daughter reiterates her frustrated plea to the God of the Universe a little bit louder and more urgently, Little Dude decides to set the record straight as to how God answers human prayer requests for gifts:
“That’s not how God works, Mom. He’s not gonna answer that prayer.
He’ll give you a car, but he won’t find you a parking space.
You’re pretty much on your own with that one.”
Cartoon Used by Permission: David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star
When Little Dude comes for Christmas maybe we’ll have a chat about his assurance of God and his lack of belief in Santa—“out of the mouths of babes” and all. I’m fascinated by his childlike faith. As an old fart, mine is a bit jaded. I get why he doesn’t believe in Santa—what can a fat ol’ white man in a red suit do to answer my primary Christmas request that no amount of money can buy: Peace on Earth? I need a real source of power, but God doesn’t seem to be responding yet, no matter how hard I pray. Can’t He see we’re not getting any better, no matter how much technically smarter we become?
I will tell my grandson that my faith is strong as to the “why” of God’s great reveal through the Baby Jesus: hope. (If one strips away all of the horrid Christian misrepresentations through the years of who Jesus is and whom he loves (all-powerful and loves everybody)—the poor, the disenfranchised, the lonely, the broken, the misunderstood, the battered, the abused, the raped—both men and women alike, the hope that the baby born in a manger brought and brings to Earth is revolutionary. What I am most hurt over and where my faith is wavering is regarding peace on Earth: peace in Ferguson, peace in the Middle East, peace amongst the races, peace among the nations of the Earth, peace for women enslaved in backward countries, and peace in individual households. Peace—that is the Christmas gift I want God to give to the Earth this holiday season. Maybe my grandson will say that God won’t answer that prayer because he gave us the Earth as a gift, but we’ll have to work out peace between each other on our own.
Cartoon Used by Permission: Bob Englehart, The Hartford Courant
I am discovering that I am going to take a break from blogging until the New Year in order to spend some splendid time with my family (and my delightful grandson) who are coming from far and near following the “star” called home. We shall spend time together cherishing one another, eating and drinking too much, playing games, seeing theatrical shows, going to museums, and exchanging copious gifts. We’ll sing Christmas carols starting with my favorite: “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” But the greatest gift that we will give each other this Christmas that Jesus gave to the entire world is love.
Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!
From the Tomczyk household to you and yours.
Cartoon Used by Permission: Jeff Parker, Florida Today
“I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no white dude would come into my neighborhood after dark.”—Dick Gregory
“No matter what, I always make it home for Christmas. I love to go to my Tennessee Mountain Home and invite all of my nieces and nephews and their spouses and kids and do what we all like to do – eat, laugh, trade presents and just enjoy each other… and sometimes I even dress up like Santa Claus!”—Dolly Parton
“We have domesticated God’s transcendence. We often learn about God at about the same time as we are learning about Santa Claus; but our ideas about Santa Claus change, mature and become more nuanced, whereas our ideas of God can remain at a rather infantile level.”—Karen Armstrong
“I ain’t here to argue about his facial features. Or here to convert atheists into believers. I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers, the way Kathie Lee needed Regis, that’s the way I need Jesus.”—Kanye West
“God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world: peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the Earth.”—Pope Benedict XVI
ALL QUOTES ARE FROM http://www.brainyquote.com
Cartoon Used by Permission: Cardow, The Ottawa Citizen
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