My sister and I, a mere 15 months apart, were at that age where it was getting more difficult for our parents to keep us convinced that yes, there really is a Santa Claus.
Despite stern instructions to the contrary from Mom and Dad, older brothers Max and Gerry weren’t much help in keeping the secret safe, occasionally turning away from the parent-approved conversations to twist the narrative to suit the occasion or their insatiable adolescent need to tease with much delight.
The fact that our classmates fell into what seemed like equally divided groups of believers and non-believers only added to the perplexing question of whether this jolly old guy in the red suit actually showed up with a bag of presents every year. The fact our home on Lepine Street in a sprawling new suburb of Montreal didn’t even have a fireplace only added to our consternation.
As the big day approached, though, our parents coached us along, sometimes highlighting a story or song that always left us feeling that St. Nick did indeed exist. Despite the fact that he seemed too good to be true, Mom and Dad assured us he would show up on schedule on the 25th day of the last month of the year, as long as we maintained a modicum of good behaviour.
That standard, however, always seemed to be determined by goalposts that constantly shifted, depending on the situation. My dad even had us convinced there was a slightly sneaky side to Santa, and that he would hear us through the electrical outlets on the walls in every room if we strayed into the bad behaviour zone. That was inevitably followed by the frequent reminder that “you kids are getting older, and this is the year we’re going to have to cut back on the amount of presents.”
It always seemed like we would never fall asleep on Christmas Eve, right up until the minute we finally did. We were always up before our parents, Max and Gerry tasked with trying to keep us in our room while we bounced off the walls until Dad delivered the all-clear. Despite Dad’s stern warnings, the pile of presents under the tree extended even further across the floor than the year before.
On this particular morning circa 1956-57, we were playing with our gifts, the wrap bundled up and the bows set aside for next year when Mom called us into the hallway by the front door.
“What’s this,” she asked, pointing to a small wad of fluffy white cotton batten that poked out from between the door frame and the wall. “It must be the trim around the sleeves on Santa’s suit. I guess Santa was in such a hurry to get all the presents delivered that he got his sleeve caught on the way out.”
Both brothers deserved Academy Awards for the performances of amazement and awe they delivered in supporting roles while Sue and I stared in disbelief at the indisputable evidence that Santa had indeed made his way to our home again, despite all the efforts of older kids at school who would have you believe otherwise.
Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.