the big secret about santa

Here is the story I read tonight at the Ward Christmas Party.  Thanks for everyone for laughing at the right moments!

Once my parent’s Dodge Dynasty pulled to a stop on the side of the road near Teton, Idaho, all four doors opened and everyone bolted from the car.  Everyone that is, except me.  All I could think about was how I had just thrown up on my new Chronicles of Narnia boxed set.  I had gotten it from Santa Claus only that morning.  As the shock was setting in, I looked up to find my mother in full Red Alert; she dashed for the back seat, a roll of paper towels under her arm.

We always traveled with paper towels.  If our mother hadn’t looked upon betting with a judgment usually reserved for murderers and Coke-drinkers, we would have most certainly had a pool for who would get sick first on our road trips.  There was always one and with seven kids in our family you would think it would be a tough call, but there were really only two you could count on, my younger sister Beverly and me.  Once, in rural Texas, one of the members of our car pool quickly pulled over to the side of the interstate.  We pulled over as well and my mom sprinted with her roll of paper towels to find that it was a false alarm.  Beverly had simply spilled the gravy in her McDonalds breakfast combo.  By now, an emergency pit stop always prompted the same response, “who got sick?”

As my mother furiously attempted to clean the seats before the smell set in, she yelled to my older sister, “Melinda, just don’t look!”  Melinda was already gagging on the side of the road.  My other sister Tracy was doubled over as well, but instead of feeling ill, she was teary-eyed from laughing. My mother ignored her.  Tracy always laughed in emergencies.  Like the time years later as a teenager, I got sick from the flu and passed out.  When I told my sister, Tracy, what had happened, it took her several minutes before she could even talk she was laughing so hard.

I watched my mother towel off the gifts I had received that morning.  I’d woken up in a sleeping bag on the floor of my Grandmother’s living room.  For the first time in years, my family took our 2000 mile trip to visit my grandparents at Christmas instead of summer.  When I opened my sleepy eyes, I was surprised to see the artificial tree packed to the branches with gifts.  I had fully expected Santa Claus to leave the presents at our house in Alabama and was shocked when he apparently had received a forwarding address.

Along with the ill-fated Narnia boxed set, I received a Ghostbuster’s action figure.  Santa Claus could be so weird, I thought.  On what list did he read that I asked for this?  Was gift selection handled by elf interns?  I never even liked the Ghostbusters.  I didn’t even know what character this was.  Furthermore, he appeared to be wearing a deep-sea diving suit.  Ghosts underwater?  Whatever the reason, Saint Nick clearly wasn’t on top of his game with this one.  I opened the action figure’s package.  When you pulled back on the scuba tank, the figure’s face stretched into an expression of cartoonish fear that caused the top of his helmet to pop off.  OK, that was kind of cool.  Maybe Santa what he was doing after all.  I could always pretend he was an easily startled astronaut.

I opened up another present.  It was a learning video game called “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”.  I excitedly examined the box.  Under the title, in a gold script font was written, “Deluxe Edition”.  I liked that.  This wasn’t the regular version of the game, this was the “Deluxe Edition”.  Gold cursive on a black box.  Could you get anything more classy?  I quickly opened the game and examined the small black floppy disks inside.

“I can’t wait to get home to install this on our computer!” I said.  It would be years later before I would realize how painfully sad this statement was.

“It’s already installed on our computer,” my dad said proudly.

“What?” I asked, confused.

“Santa Claus said he already installed it on our computer,” he replied.

“He did?”  How did that work?  So that night, Santa had flown to our house in Magnolia, Alabama, let himself in, installed the game on the family computer, wrapped the box back up and flew to St. Anthony, Idaho to place it under my grandparents artificial fir?  I imagined Santa Claus sitting at our computer desk that was really a folding table and sequentially feeding five floppy disks into our 486DX Gateway 2000.  As I mulled over this unlikely image, I was hit by the realization that this could mean only one thing.

Santa Claus was a huge nerd.

You could have told me that I was going to receive free Jelly Belly Jellybeans for life and I still wouldn’t have been as excited.  Santa Claus was a nerd!  He understood me!  How else could you explain Mr. Jolly Old Elf going to the trouble of installing the software on my computer at my home two-thousand miles away?  I thought of the implications.  As a fellow nerd, I wouldn’t be surprised if Santa had used the Ghostbusters action figure as merely a ruse to extend my toy-getting years, so he could secretly supply me with a steady stream of applications and peripherals.  What could be next?  More RAM?  Windows 3.1?  Dare I dream it, a CD-ROM drive?  I realized I was getting ahead of myself.  In church they taught that God didn’t like impatience and I figured that God and Santa Claus probably operated under similar sets of values.  This new technical side of Santa Claus was going to have to explored slowly and with caution.  I opened the rest of my presents.

When my mom cleaned up as much as she could in the back seat, everyone got back in the car which was now freezing from the mountain air.  The cold helped to mask the smell but we would still occasionally catch whiffs on our three day trip back to the south.  To pass the time, I flipped open the user manual to “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” and looked at the system requirements.  He even knew that our computer met the minimum specs to run the game!  I doubted that my parents even knew that!

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  1. Seriously- that person that suggested you should write a book on your last blog was on to something.

    Posted December 10, 2007 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  2. This is great.

    Hands down fantastic!

    Posted December 13, 2007 at 10:21 am | Permalink
  3. Jeremy Margolies

    “Santa Claus was a huge nerd.”

    …that line had me doubled over laughing, nice.

    Posted March 31, 2008 at 1:10 pm | Permalink