Christmas of 1997 was an eye-opener for me once I realized that information fed to our children by the media and society had resulted in Santa Claus being identified — according to my toddler — as likely a criminal. As we approached Christmas 1998, I had spent 11 months — off and on — mulling over how to align the description of Santa’s activities with the fantasy fairy tale story most of us sell our children during their early years.
No matter how I tried to rework the information, the result was always the same … Santa Claus was, quite probably, a criminal.
Then I hit upon what I thought was a brilliant solution. Surely, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) wouldn’t support the activities of an international criminal with its Christmas Eve account of Santa’s flight around the world! By following hourly updates on the NORAD website on Christmas Eve, I was certain this would help ally Lewis’ concerns about Santa Claus and his intentions. Alas, the best laid plans of mothers and mice sometimes fall far short of the intended goal.
On Christmas Eve, I fired up my Aptiva and logged on to the NORAD website. With two chairs in front of the computer monitor screen, I was certain that Lewis would soon see that Santa was no criminal. After all, NORAD is the joint American and Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace defense of the United States and Canada, and they were experts in tracking air travel (Santa’s preferred mode of transportation) and keeping North American safe.
For the first four hours, we checked back every hour on the hour and since Lewis hadn’t said too much about Santa up until that point, I felt confident that we were making headway with dispelling the “Santa is a criminal” concept.
“Mommy,” he said seriously as we rounded the 7:00 p.m. mark, “I hope Santa doesn’t come to our house this year.” My hopes were dashed; I had failed to make the intended impression on my 3 1/2 year old son.
“OK,” I said, trying to keep disappointment from creeping into my voice. “What are you worried about?”
“Oh, I’m not worried,” he responded. “I just don’t want criminals in our house.”
I handed him a Clementine orange that I had peeled for him, and asked him why he still thought Santa was a criminal when he hadn’t stolen anything from us last Christmas when he came to visit. “It’s worse than I thought, Mommy,” was his answer.
How much worse could it be, I wondered. I already knew about the gang of elves who spied for Santa, the questionable activities of Santa and his gang, the break-and-enter propensity Santa had for every house in the world, and more. Wasn’t that bad enough? Before I could ask Lewis what he meant, he began to explain how much worse it could be.
“Air space,” he began. “First of all, I know because I watched a show on Discovery channel. You need permission to fly. I never see Santa talk about his permission to fly.” A license?!?! Santa didn’t have a license to fly?
“And you know,” he continued, “I never see stories of Santa packing food for the reindeer. They work very hard, you know, Mommy, and he doesn’t feed them and that’s not good.” And with that last definitive statement, I realized that Santa was a supporter of slave labour! How could I miss that?
“But honey,” I countered, “If NORAD is tracking his every move, they’ll have all the proof the police need to arrest him if he’s doing very bad things, don’t you think? They have all these Santa cams trained on his every move so he can’t get away with very much, can he?” Lewis considered these questions carefully before answering.
“Mommy, remember on COPS they say that everybody is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?” I had this awful sinking feeling that I wasn’t going to be able to convince my young son that Santa was a jolly elf with a heart of gold and only the world’s best interests at heart.
“Maybe,” he suggested in that grown-up voice he mimicked from old 1960s Perry Mason episodes, “the police are watching him and collecting proof for Judge Joe Brown.” Ah yes, the infamous Judge Joe Brown whose half-hour television show was being promoted with regularity since it had started up that September.
How could I argue with his logic when it made absolute sense? Yes, perhaps the police were collecting proof of Santa’s criminal activities so a prosecuting attorney could indict him on all sorts of charges. Whatever was I thinking when I overlooked that as a possibility?
And still, hoping to salvage some of the myth surrounding the story of Santa Claus, I heard myself saying to Lewis, “Well, maybe he’s not really a criminal. Maybe he’s just a person of interest.” With that, I knew I had just made the next 12 months that much more difficult for myself as I continued on my mission to save Santa from his own poor image based entirely on his suspect activities.
NOTE: Read the follow-up blog entry about how Santa Claus continued to be cause for concern during the Christmas 2000 holiday season. Coming to this blog this weekend.