Santa scared the shit out of me. Or rather, the idea of a strange man landing a flock of deer on my roof and shimmying through a burning chimney to sneak around my house while I was sleeping scared the shit out of me.
On Christmas morning, I’d make my father open every closet door in search of Ol’ Saint Nick before I’d venture anywhere near the living room. Pressed to my mother’s side I’d holler, “Is he gone?” until my father could convince me he was. “Yep! He took the carrots for the reindeer, and there’s nothing left of the cookies but crumbs.”
I never understood how Santa could eat so many cookies. I was terrible at math but figured if he was flying all over the world at least one thousand families would feed him cookies, and eating one thousand plates of cookies in one night would do terrible things to a person’s body. How hasn’t Santa lost all his teeth from all that sugar? Do they have dentists in the North Pole? Do they have doctors? Are elf hands big enough to perform surgeries on non-elf bodies? And this one isn’t THAT important but I’ll ask it anyway—-If Santa dies will I still get gifts next year?
Despite my concerns, I adored Christmas. Snow globes, tinsel, hot chocolate, carolers, the way music suddenly lived in the air––spilling out the doors of post offices, bank teller windows, even libraries. The wonder of it all thrilled me, but even more so it comforted me. This is how it should be all the time! I thought—dreaming up gifts to give the people you love, relatives who haven’t been home all year coming home, the entire extended family together (which was especially entertaining considering my mother’s name is Shirley, my aunt’s name is Shirley, my other aunt’s name is Shirley, and my grandpa, yes my grandpa, was named Shirley. No one ever knew who was talking to who, and somehow that made the conversations even better.)
I’d pull the bow off of a bicycle and spend hours pedaling it through the two feet of snow in front of my house. And just as soon as I was old enough to suspect my parents were the fire-resistant sleigh riders in my chimney––my sister was born. Through her, I got to live my younger years all over again. She’d rattle my Christmas stocking in my ear at 5am saying, “Andrea Andrea Andrea Santa came Santa came Santa came!” The first year she was old enough to understand what was happening, the stocking alone was a miracle she could hardly handle---pulling out trinkets one by one gasping––”Chapstick! how he know you love chapstick, Andrea?!” “Chocolate! How he know I love chocolate, Andrea?!” And when she saw there were even MORE presents in the living room, she nearly went into shock.
When the pandemic started, depression found me like an infectious Scrooge. Having a chronic illness, I was more quarantined than almost anyone I knew and struggled to find a thing in life to celebrate. When the walls of my house began closing in on me more, I decided to cover our trees in year-round holiday lights. So many holiday lights my friends would pull into our driveway, exclaiming:
“What in heaven’s name is that?!”
“Do you think it will piss off the neighbors?”
Me: Do the neighbors prefer hell over heaven?
“It looks like a Florida strip mall.”
Me: I too, get warm all over just looking at it.
“What compelled you to do this?”
Me: I’m full of bright ideas!
Whoever decided holiday lights should shine only in December was a dark dark soul. Why a few weeks of magic, when I could have magic every day of the year? I’m no longer in the habit of being told only some days should be celebrated, and I no longer believe there is a need to dim my wonder or my joy.
(And in case you don’t know—energy-efficient string lights are easy to find and use only a smidgen of the energy of traditional holiday lights.)
I hope this letter finds you shining, friends. Thank you for adding so much light to my life.
Love, Andrea 🖤