My parents, and particularly my dad, love Christmas. Growing up, one or both of them would dutifully eat the cookies my brother and I laid out and often times left a handwritten note from S.C. (not Scott Calvin) himself. They played the part quite tastefully, really.
I was 7 years old in 1992 and the only thing on my list was a Barbie Dream House with working elevator. Ever the planner, I did not want to leave my fate to chance. I not-so-subtly hinted while rifling through my grandma’s Sears catalog, created an expertly crafted letter to Santa, and even visited him during his month long stint at Southridge Mall. I must have made a lasting impression because Santa (later identified as my grandpa) called to speak with me. I mean, I knew I had been nice that year in an attempt to butter him up, but I had no idea my sweetness warranted a personal phone call. The words barely made it out my mouth as I nervously paced down hallway. After handing the phone over to my little brother, I remember wondering how to disguise knowing Santa was bringing me a Barbie Dream House with working elevator because I didn’t want to ruin the surprise for my parents. I was that confident.
Come Christmas morning, I woke up before everyone to stalk the gifts under the tree. It took all of .183429 seconds to identify the largest package, my Barbie Dream House with working elevator. When my brother and parents awoke nearly years later (a period of time which I also credit for the premature graying of my hair), I speedily divvied up the presents. I organized my own pile by size, saving the you-know-what with working elevator for last. My brother was young enough to sometimes require adult assistance when opening his packages, which tested my patience by gift number four.
Hours, and possibly even days, later there was one present remaining. I collected myself and attempted to hide my knowing smile as I carefully tore back the wrapping paper. What I uncovered was a nondescript cardboard box. Huh. Now, I had seen the Barbie Dream House with working elevator in stores enough times to know what the box should look like, but I gave St. Nick the benefit of the doubt. He probably just assembled the house so it’s ready for me to play with, I reasoned to myself and pressed onward. Once I pulled open the corners of the box, it took a few seconds to process what was inside.
Wait… what… this isn’t… but…
I struggled to collect my thoughts and fight back tears. I scoured my brain to access what little knowledge I had of acting and turned my mouth up in a pathetic U shape. Words escaped me as I lifted the winter coat from its bed and slipped it on my heartbroken body. My parents Ooh-ed and Aah-ed with satisfied expressions drawn on their faces.
I spent the next few hours in disbelief almost assuming that, at some point during the day, my parents would sneak away and return with my coveted Barbie Dream House with working elevator. They’d revel in a brief moment of GOTCHA! while I re-created the scene from A Christmas Story when Ralphie finally receives his Red Ryder BB gun (minus any loss of eyes).
The event really shook my faith in Santa Claus, though I continued believing in him until fourth grade (thanks a lot, Amy and Amanda).
As an adult, I think back to that Christmas with nothing but fondness. I've often asked my parents how they missed the multitude of clues I dropped or why they decided to let me open a coat at the grand finale gift. They don't know.
Perhaps most amusing in my decision to share this story now, I asked for a new winter coat this Christmas.
Are you reading this, mom?