Tuesday, December 23, 2008

a christmas tale

I've been in a self-revealing mood lately, for whatever reason, so I'm going to share with you a story from my youth. It involves Christmas, so it's timely. But just so you're forewarned, it's not the happiest Christmas story of all time.

Well, I grew up in a small city in upstate New York, and went to B--- Elementary School for grades K-5. (I can't reveal the actual name of the school, because it's the answer to one of the security questions for some of my Internet passwords. Sorry.) Anyhow, at B--- School, in addition to learning how to spell and count and all the state capitals and whatnot, we also had art and music classes. And around the holiday season, we typically sang a lot of holiday songs, primarily Christmas songs with one or two Hanukkah songs thrown in for balance.

So, one day during 2nd grade, for whatever reason, we got into a big debate about Christmas. I think it involved something about why poor kids didn't get as nice presents as wealthier kids. And I believe it was me who made the point that poor kids should ask Santa not only for electronic games and football jerseys and things like that, but also for enough food and cash for their families to break out of the cycle of poverty. (I didn't use the phrase "cycle of poverty" or anything like that, but my point was definitely along those lines.) It made sense to me, because I typically got most of the stuff I asked for at Christmas.

Honestly, I think my suggestion stunned the class into silence. It shone in the air above us, as brilliant as the star that beckoned the wise men to Bethlehem. But just as I was about to enjoy one of my greatest triumphs ever, the music teacher, Mrs. Travis, spoke up. "Well, that wouldn't work because there is no Santa Claus."

We all gasped, and looked uncertainly at each other.

"It's true. You kids need to learn that at some point, so it may as well be now."

I don't remember what happened after that - it's all a blur - or pretty much anything else from 2nd grade. But doesn't it make sense to you people now? Do you see where all my rage and bitterness come from? Like everything else, it goes all the way back to early childhood.

(And as for you kids out there reading Mad City, I just want you to know something: yes, kids, there is a Santa Claus. He lives in the hearts and the minds of every little kid out there who believes in the wonder and the majesty of Christmas. He flies around the world in his magic sleigh on Christmas Eve, delivering gifts to children everywhere. And rich kids tend to get better presents than poor kids because ... well, that's just the way that life works. And hopefully, one of these years, Santa's also going to track down Mrs. Travis in her retirement home, if the crusty old broad is still alive, and teach her a little something about stepping outside the designated music class curriculum to impart life lessons on her pupils. Damn ...)

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