I don’t really know when I stopped believing in Santa Claus.
Mostly because I don’t remember ever believing in him.
During my prime “sitting on Santa’s knee” years, I was raised by a single mom at the height of our country’s era of disbelief: post-Vietnam, post-Watergate, pure disco.
It was an era when us little kids played our games quietly on the sidelines while adults reveled in theirs.
Instead of trying to figure anything out, most adults danced, snorted, drank, fucked, sucked, got analyzed, hypnotized, justified.
There were no play dates for little kids.
It was Lord of the Flies for us.
That’s right. We created tribes. We set the rules.
It was survival of the fittest on those suburban cul-de-sac streets, where the trees kept disappearing due to blight, new developments and aphids.
Most parents were divorced in my childhood memories.
I remember one particularly bleak Christmas when my mom and I were completely broke. My mom gave me a tiny, cranberry-colored satin horse decorated with little sequins. That was it. This pretty little horse was from a cheap Chinese gift shop. It was all she could afford. But I loved that little horse. It was so perfect and glamorous. Better yet: It was pocket-sized.
And that was by design.
She gave it to me on Christmas Eve. Her eyes were red with tears and she was far too thin from worry.
As I unwrapped it, she said to me: “Never let anyone keep you down. Always remember who you are. Keep this in your pocket to remind you how special you are, no matter what.”
And I did. I carried it with me wherever I went.
That is the magic of my mom. It’s also why I’m glad she never lied to me by claiming Santa brought me that little horse.
It wouldn’t have meant as much to me. I needed to know that the horse and the lesson came directly from her.
To this day, that pretty little horse is a symbol of her: no matter how afraid you are, how depressed you feel, always show your satin and sequined side.