When I Was Mistaken for Santa

One of the Christmas stories from our family archives is the time my oldest daughter’s declared that she thought that I was the “real” Santa. It came as a surprise for me. I love telling the story to new generations.

When the children were young, I couldn’t find work in my hometown, so I moved to the nearest “big” city of Atlanta. I left my oldest four children with my mother, taking the five-month-old baby with me.

Because I was away from the children and I could not visit often, working six days a week, eight to twelve hours a day, I felt such shame and guilt to be absent from my children’s lives. Back in the 1970s, you could not Skype or Face-time, so I missed seeing them and they missed interacting with me.

Also, some members of my family denounced my absence, calling me on the phone and demanding that I return to my children. But, I needed to earn enough money to provide a real home for them, so I did what I had to do. Yet, knowing that I had no choice did not assuage my guilt.

So, when Christmas time arrived, I would call my mother and tell her to have the children write a list for Santa. Then, my mother would mail me the lists, and they were the usual for children, meaning that they wanted all of the newest toys and gadgets.

As I could not go home to see them, working the day before and after Christmas, I felt compelled to buy everything on their lists. I spent thousands of dollars in credit each year purchasing every item. The only thing I did not buy for Christmas was the mistletoe, for I had no one to kiss anyway.

Once I had the gifts wrapped, I would ship them home. Mama would then go to the post office and pick them up and put them under the tree, while the children were sleeping, with the bicycles being the last thing placed on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas morning, the children would open their gifts and find everything they asked for under the tree! Then, they would go outside to ride their new bikes or try their new skates, and, of course, they saw other children enjoying their new toys as well.

For years, Mama and I kept up the charade. Then, as children do, they grew up and figured out what was the deal, and the “magic” of Christmas was dimmed somewhat.

But, in those first three years of my absence, they were young enough to still believe. They were so happy to know that “Santa” had read their lists, found them good and not naughty, and that they had received their every wish.

The years went by, and one day, Angela, my oldest, picked me up to drive me someplace. As she drove, she thanked me for adopting her and her three siblings and talked about the fact that she understood the sacrifices I made, now that she was a mother.

Then she said that one Christmas, as her grandmother took them to the place to pick up boxes, she noticed that they were from me. So, she assumed that I had sent boxes to every apartment in the housing project and that I was the “real” Santa Claus. She also thought my mother was so secretive about the boxes because she alone of all the people in the world knew that I was really jolly old Saint Nick, not the guy in the red suit!

It was a special moment for me. We laughed at the way the heart of children work. She never told her younger brothers and sisters what she had “discovered” about me. There is still much laughter when the story is told today. Oh, to retain the whimsical thoughts of a child into adulthood!

Of course, I would have saved enough money to bring them to live with me in Atlanta years earlier, if I had not allowed my guilt and the shaming of others to cause me to spend so much money trying to justify actions that were necessary and completely legitimate.

This Christmas, don’t spend a lot of money buying children a lot of things to make up for time lost with them. Instead, let go of some of the materialism, and let hugs and words of love and pride and value and worth suffice.

In the end, it was not the toys Angela remembered, but that they evoked in her the thoughts of someone who loved them very much and thought them worthy of the gifts. That’s her and her husband with me in the picture above. How fast they grow up!

Fandango prompt is Denounce. Ragtag prompt is Family. Scott’s Daily Prompt is Archive. Word of the Day Challenge is Secretive. Your Daily Prompt is Mistletoe. Tuesday Use It in a Sentence prompt is Evoke(d).

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