Friday, December 28, 2012

The Great Santa Sedition

It was a hot day in July, 1951. Christmas seemed a lifetime away. Harry Truman occupied the White House. Peace talks floundered and the Korean War ground to a stalemate. But another war raged, a war without peace talks, and I desperately sought a way to end it.
I'd just celebrated my fifth birthday. My Aunt Barbara and Uncle Benny, four and five years older than me, respectively, were more like a big brother and sister. This pseudo-sibling relationship came complete with their occasional desire to torment a little brother for entertainment.
On this hot July day, I sat between them in the backseat of my grandmother's car headed to town. Grandma drove and my mom sat beside her.
Now, I should stop here to explain something. My grandmother went to unbelievably great lengths to preserve her kids' belief in Santa. Gifts mysteriously appeared underneath the Christmas tree. She would talk about reindeer on the roof. She had her kids believing well into their teens … all but my mom, who enlightened me when I was four years old.
Back to the trip to town—the torment earlier that morning from my uncle, and the resulting smirks from my aunt, still smarted. But I'd developed a theory that even in July, the power of Santa was incredible, E equals M C squared. I hypothesized that if I could split Santa, the war with my aunt and uncle would end in a huge mushrooming explosion and their unconditional surrender.
I stood in the middle of the floorboard—no seatbelts back then—and turned to face my aunt and uncle. Sneering at them, I sequentially met their curious gazes, took a deep breath, and opened the bomb bay doors, dumping my whole payload. "There ain't no Santa Claus!" I waited.
A deep guttural sound began as a moan. It turned to wailing. Uncle Benny wailed in tenor while aunt Barbara took the alto part. The wailing soon became words. "Moooother! Make him stop!"
Next, I fired all my rockets. "I know there ain't no Santa Claus!"
"Moooother! He's saying it again!"
The caterwauling, combined with the threat to her well-kept secret, destroyed my grandmother's concentration. She stopped the car to have a conversation with my mom, a conversation drowned out by the continued wailing in two-part harmony.
What a rush! I was finally in control, giving my tormentors their just deserts.
I put my hand on the machine gun and fired a burst. "There really ain't no—"
An iron hand clamped onto my shoulder.
I glanced toward the front seat.
My mom glared back at me and shook her head. "You can't say that anymore." This was her stern voice, a voice I needed to obey.
"Can't we even talk about—"
"Not with your aunt and uncle."
"But, Mom, you told me that—"
Grandma glared at me too. "The subject of Santa Claus is off limits … forever."
In an instant, my nuclear arsenal had been neutralized, not with the fear of a retaliatory strike, but from the fear of a wooden paddle on my rear end.
Soon my aunt wiped her tears. My uncle Benny sniffed a couple of times, then slowly his confident, annoying smirk returned. So did the torment … for five more years. Oh, he was a good big brother to me—taught me to field hot grounders, throw strikes, shoot a basketball, throw a spiral with a football, and run like the dickens when he was trying to perform tickle torture.
I miss those days with my aunt and uncle, all except the torture. And I'll never forget the adrenaline rush from the power of the Santa sedition.
If there's a moral to this story I guess it's that you shouldn't follow my example. When you have the truth, wield it in love. Using truth as a weapon doesn't persuade anyone of anything except that you're an unpleasant person. A man named Peter said something similar regarding answering people with the truth. We're to do it "with gentleness and respect," not a nuclear attack on their most cherished beliefs.

H. L. (Harry) Wegley served in the USAF as an Intelligence Analyst and a Meteorologist. He worked as a Research Scientist in Atmospheric Physics, then as a large-scale, computer systems developer at Boeing before retiring in the Seattle area where he is involved in a small-group ministry. In 2010 he began another career, writing fiction. His romantic thriller, Hide and Seek, the first book in the Pure Genius Series, is coming in February 2013  from Harbourlight Books, Pelican Book Group. You can contact him through his web site, blog, or the social media:


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, H.L. I could "get into" the scene easily, having spent plenty of time in the same type of back seat w/my brothers and sisters.

Will show it to my husband, who's a retired COL.

Thanks again, Gail Kittleson

TNeal said...

Enjoyed the story. Reminded me of a childhood friend whose uncle was younger than he. Always a little mind blowing.

H L Wegley said...

Thanks, Gail and Neal! When your grandmother marries at 15, has a baby at 16, then your mom does the same, it leaves one about 3/4 of a generation off in age. Aunts and uncles become brothers and sisters. Second cousins become first cousins. The good thing is that you get to know your grandparents pretty well.

Anonymous said...

It's strange, H.L., but in my growing up years, the Santa myth and
the truth co-existed. I think it had to do with needing to believe in something mystical, magical. And Santa seemed like a superhero that I didn't want to let go off until I met the real thing--Jesus, my Lord and Savior when I was nine.
Good point and something for all of us to remember when we confront others with the truth.

H L Wegley said...

Yes, when confronting peoplevwith the truth, we dare not forget the Christian apologist's creed -- 1 peter 3:15 "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..."

Deborah Dee Harper said...

Wonderful, witty, and well-written post :-) Thanks for the laugh and the lesson learned.


H L Wegley said...

Thanks, Deborah! It's incredible how quickly a 5-year-old can become giddy with his sense of power and how fast a mom can strip it all away.