‘This house operates a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Come back to me next year. Or the year after.’
‘Mum! I only want to…’
‘La la la I’m not listening.’ I ran upstairs, covering my ears, and locked myselk in the bathroom. It had only been a couple of months since I was forced to dispatch the tooth fairy, amid much sobbing (mine). I just wasn’t psychologically prepared to discuss The Santa Question. Partly because of the old Magic of Childhood malarkey, but mainly because I kind of believe in Santa myself. Only the other day he sent the kids a postcard saying if they visited him at the Riverside they’d get a free toy! Who but the real Santa would dish out freebies?
For me, the absolute highlight of the Christmas season is when the Rotary Club come round with Santa and his sleigh on the back of a van. I live in such fear of missing it that the last couple of years I’ve taken to noting it in my diary, though the actual date is quite hard to find and involves much lurking on the Rotary Club website and breaking into their high-security newsletters. Last year Man of the House was flicking through my diary for some reason – we have no secrets from each other, apart from the ones he doesn’t know about – and quizzed me closely as to why I had written the Rotary Club on a particular December date. Was I planning to join the Rotarians? Was this something we ought to discuss? I don’t honestly know why he was interested; he barely blinked when I became a Freemason.
Anyway, the Rotary Club truck definitely hire the real Santa, and his arrival marks the proper start of Christmas, which I embrace whole-heartedly. I was brought up with a strange hybrid winter festival. My mum allowed us to have stockings but not decorations or a tree, the turkey was kosher, and the presents were called Chanucah gifts, which somehow took the shine off a bit. So having my own home and making my own rules has been marvellous. It’s yes to the biggest tree that’ll fit in the living room, and yes to chocolate oranges on tap, and yes to bickering about the correct consistency of gravy (and no to turkey, ugh, kosher or otherwise).
And now the wretched children are threatening to spoil it by asking if Santa exists. Well I’m not going to let them ruin it for me. If they want to have another few years gazing at my innocent uplifted face as Rotary Santa waves at us over the sound of Hark the Herald Angels, they’re going to have to keep shtum about any niggling concerns. I’ve explained that Santa’s not keen on distributing largesse such as Beano and Dandy annuals to doubters; so if they want anything more than a foil-wrapped Satsuma this year they know what to do.
Beth Miller. Published in VivaLewes.com and in Viva Lewes magazine Dec 2011.