Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Santa Claus can beat up your Santa Claus

It’s that time of year when all the stations are doling out my childhood in sweet little 60-minute, claymationesque lumps. Mmmm, “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.”, Mmmm “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”… After watching a few of these I started thinking about one of the more consistent ideas from all of those stories: Santa makes the toys. He makes them, the elves make them, whatever: they’re wood and paint and nails and MADE. By HAND.

I don’t know how any current kids can believe in Santa Claus now, since everything you can give a kid is plastic and molded and chock full of lead paint and mercury from our good friends in the North Pole China. But I know that I believed in Santa in my day. (technically I still do, although that belief is dependent on a careful combination of not thinking about it too hard and selectively forgetting facts of life the second I learn them. And egg nog.) I even remember that my Granny knew Santa – they were pals. That was why she could sleep on the couch on Christmas Eve when she stayed at our house. So that she and the Big Man could catch up, compare photos (Granny: “That’s my granddaughter Femtastic – she’s a little hellion, but please bring her stuff anyway.” Santa: “That’s Dasher’s latest fawn – we call him Skipper and he keeps eating my slippers.”) It was with this level of detail that for always and for true I believed, believed in Santa.

Still, how could I believe if I was getting these toys and things that were obviously made by things other than hands? Here’s how: my Santa gifts (when I was wee) were often hand made! By hands! Actual people hands!!

There was the year of the complete kitchen set – fridge, sink, stove; all wood and white paint and perfectly wee-sized. I had that set for a really long time, and then eventually passed it on to the next youngest kids in the family. From Santa I bequeath you this kitcheny goodness, kids! Also I remember a microphone stand that elevated my dancing around the living room, singing with the Bee Gees, Shawn Cassidy or Olivia Newton John to almost professional levels. It was wood on the base, then a series of interlocking metal tubes and topped off with a microphone from a tape recorder (ask your parents about what that was, kids – it’s the thing that cave men used in order to rock out to tunes. They were normally steam-powered.) with just enough cord for me to do that cool Roger Daltry spinny thing. And I’m pretty sure that Santa was responsible for the blanket that was pink/green/blue plaid on one side and lined with hot-pink fake fur on the other. Because Santa knew how to rock the hot pink like that.

OK, so I don’t remember how I reconciled these treasures with the slot car track or the bean bag chair or the Casio keyboard. I think once the faith in Santa was there it was unshakable! Show me your plastic, mass-made toys that I have MYSELF seen advertised on TV and I will show you my smooth, polished wood or hand-sewn lovelies that probably took so long to make SO wonderful that the elves were forced to stop at K-Mart to pick up the last few things, ‘kay?

Also I know that one of the reasons for many of the hand-made treasures from my parents (via Santa) was to keep costs down, because we weren’t what folks would call “overwhelmed with massive piles of money” when I was a kid. But that was never how it felt; it was just so cool that Santa’s own elves had taken the time to paint the little black knobs on my pint-sized stove! For ME! And that nobody else I knew had what I had because I had the only ones anywhere. Limited Edition. Special Reserve. One Night Only. Be the only kid on your block.

Best of all: I could watch my Rankin/Bass holiday treats with 100% belief, because of course Santa and his crew were making everything by hand. Allow me to direct you to the fur/plaid blanket wrapped around the wood/steel microphone stand in that corner where, later on, I will be doing a command performance of Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing”! Get your tickets now.

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