This longstanding letter-writing tradition will not be repeated in the Beadling Household this year. For the first time in 16 years, there will be no Santa Claus on Beach Street. This sudden, stunning development hardly lacks for explanation.
To be sure, for example, Everett has stretched — and arguably burst like a popped balloon — the boundaries between “naughty” and “nice.”
Last night, he deployed some trademark foot-dragging on the way to his piano lesson. He emphasized his displeasure with this weekly task, and tamped down any minuscule notion in my head of future rock stardom, by sarcastically promising to pay me $100 should he “ever have a career in the music business.” This is a piece of U.S. Currency he has absolutely zero intention of slapping into my hand. Later, Ev maligned his obligation to participate in that evening’s Midweeklies Holiday Dance, and wore in protest the exact same jacket and tie outfit he has worn for this event for the past two months, like a prison jumpsuit. At the celebratory event’s conclusion, Ev expressed major aggravation, bordering on outrage, that his parents arrived to pick him up at 8:02 pm rather than the appointed hour of 8:00 pm: “See?! This is why I need an iPhone!”
Just this morning, I attempted to “healthy up” some leftover macaroni and cheese by tossing in a handful of spinach leaves. Surveying the breakfast offering warily without breaking stride, Everett announced, “Nice try, Dad,” and speed-walked right out of the kitchen. Eventually, he took up his place at the table, spending 15 minutes pushing differently-colored items to and from different corners of his plate. Though he appeared to be earnestly absorbing our informative lectures about nutrition and “the most important meal of the day,” Everett, we later realized, had wisely run out the clock. No more time for eating this mushy spinach, you see, since the school bus would be leaving the school bus stop in about two minutes hence.
Everett’s obstinance continued unabated in our garage, as he filled those two minutes by grumpily untying and retying his fairly new sneakers with quintuple knots. Somehow those quintuple knots are directly attributable to something my wife did or did not do. “Ask mom!” he snapped when I asked why he hadn’t let me simply cut and burn the laces’ ends. He then came as close as he ever has to breaking my pristine, 12-year streak of bus stop perfection. The bus pulled away from the curb, then came to an abrupt halt, as my little ingrate sprinted toward it with a frown. I managed an apologetic wave to our friend the bus driver, and then tried to convey a disapproving scowl through tinted windows at the general area where my son usually sits.
So yes, this insolent behavior might be off-putting to Santa.
But Santa’s conspicuous absence this year could also be explained by some arguably rough treatment in the past. Like the time our dog chewed him to bits. Leaving poor Santa in our backyard, disheveled and fearing for his life —
Or the time we (allegedly) ran Santa over —
For what it’s worth, this particular traffic mishap cannot be blamed on me. As my wife will tell you, I haven’t managed to parallel park our Prius (or anybody’s else’s Prius) this close to the curb in years.
Could it be, then, because we are blithely breaking with tradition, embarking on a family trip to warmer climes this year, rather than staying home and awaiting our hung stockings to be filled? I suspect Santa will forgive our attempt to make some new memories in this, the first Holiday season since my wife’s mom passed away. Under the circumstances, even Everett sees the merit of sacrificing his usual gaggle of gifts under the Christmas tree for airplane tickets.
In fact, none of this explains why there’ll be no milk and cookies and carrot sticks left on our fireplace’s mantel this year.
The real reason is that 2017 marks the first Christmas Season in which Everett knows Santa doesn’t exist. I can hardly fathom how we kept the dream alive for as long as we did. But indeed, it is the end of the road for St. Nick in these parts. Rough stuff for our second-born (and for his parents). And I think he’s having a hard time with it: Letting go of Santa Claus.
The other night at dinner, Everett concocted an elaborate fib about a bright crimson, recently-bloody scratch that had mysteriously appeared on his neck during the school day. Ev claimed he had merely stumbled and fallen in a bush. Later, under intense questioning from his mother, he admitted that a friend of his had scratched him in anger, right after Everett had chucked a football at said friend’s head. Also in anger. Ev assured us, however, that he and his friend had ultimately “worked it out.” Nevertheless, given our past experiences with both of our children, we remain conditioned to anxiously await a call or email from school. The call never came. The email never sent.
Maybe the “Football Scratch Incident” was truly not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, we figured. Then again, maybe Santa had one final gift up his sleeve, even if Everett and his family probably didn’t deserve it.
Thanks for reading. And Happy Holidays.