Lying in Wait for Santa

My son Eliot, always had an analytical mind and a grown-up attitude. I would be pushing him in his stroller when he was just a toddler and people would ask me what college he went to. There was a poignant irony to hearing him singing in his little voice along with Sinatra’s “When You’re Young at Heart” while he rode in his car seat.

He was always driven to learn and excel. At four years old he was convinced he needed to know how to read before attending school. He thought that was why I kept him from going. He tried convincing me he knew how to read by pointing to our local pizza parlor as we drove by and saying “Look Dad, I know how to read. That says ‘pizza’!”

His first four or five teachers each tried to convince me to put him on Ritalin, not because he was disruptive, but because he consumed information so voraciously.

He long suspected that Santa Claus was a myth but one Christmas he became determined to prove it. He and his sister were sharing my studio apartment that year. Santa’s coming down a chimney was always a hard sell but we didn’t even have a chimney, so Eliot thought this would be easy.

A simple plan, he was determined to stay up watching until Santa arrived, or didn’t. His sister was always practical and went to sleep right away. I needed to wait for him to fall asleep before I could put presents under the tree.

Pretending to support his endeavor, I ‘bolstered his stamina’ by giving him some milk. He propped himself up with pillows on the top bunk, with a good view of the tree so he wouldn’t miss a thing.

I then feigned sleep and watched through half-closed eyes until Eliot’s attention waned. He drifted off about five minutes to midnight.

My window of opportunity was very narrow as he is a light sleeper. I swiftly stole into the walk-in closet and in a couple of trips had all the wrapped presents under the tree. I just made it back to bed and moderated my breathing in time to hear Eliot exclaim despairingly, “Oh man!”

I pretended to awaken. “What happened?”

“He was here! I fell asleep and he already came!”

“Oh well. That Santa is a sly one. We’ll catch him next year. Merry Christmas!”

And it was a merry Christmas.

Note: This was published in the Tolucan Times on 12/28/16.

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