A few years ago—born out of my inordinate love for this heart-filling, soul-transforming, sacred and transcendent season—I wrote a short Christmas tale called The Truth About Santa Claus. It’s never appeared anywhere before now and I offer it here as cyber Christmas present: my way of wishing all of you the happiest of holidays, the merriest of Christmases.
Here’s to a magical, miraculous 2010: God knows, we could all use one.
Here’s to a magical, miraculous 2010: God knows, we could all use one.
THE TRUTH ABOUT
“THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS!”
He’d been thinking about it for days—ever since he heard Big Mouth Jenny Rizzo announce it on the school bus—and he didn’t believe a word of it, not one word. (Well, maybe ONE.) But Cody had to be sure, absolutely, positively sure—
—and that’s why he was hiding behind the couch at midnight on Christmas Eve.
His mother was there, asleep in his dad’s old easy chair, the reds and blues of the Christmas tree lights making her look peaceful and happy and impossibly young.
The tree, by the way, had not ONE SINGLE PRESENT underneath it.
That didn’t make sense. If there WAS no Santa Claus, if his mother was the one who bought the presents, wrapped the presents, stacked them under the tree, then how come she hadn’t done it? How come she wasn’t awake RIGHT NOW arranging them all?
He got scared. Maybe there wasn’t going to BE a Christmas this year. Maybe Mom had lost her job and they didn’t have any money and so she COULDN’T buy him any presents and—
And then Cody glanced over at the windows and noticed that it was snowing.
Or was it?
If that was snow, it was the WHITEST snow he’d ever seen. It was snow as bright as moonbeams, as bright as sunlight, as bright as...
Quickly, but quietly (he didn’t want to wake his mother), he scurried to the window and looked out.
It was coming down and coming down and COMING DOWN all across town, whirling and whipping, spinning and gyrating, out of the night sky. Glowing so brightly that it almost hurt his eyes to look at it. And Cody saw that it certainly wasn’t snow, and it absolutely wasn’t rain, it wasn’t ANYTHING he’d ever seen before. But each drop, no...each flake, no... each BALL of glowing WHATEVER IT WAS, seemed to pulse and spin, soar and vibrate, as if it were alive.
And the stuff, the magical WHATEVER IT WAS (and he knew now that it was magic. He just KNEW), wasn’t collecting on the streets, wasn’t piling up on the rooftops. It was MELTING INTO (that’s the only way he could put it: MELTING INTO) every house (no matter how small) and apartment building (no matter how big).
EVERY house and apartment building.
He looked up.
And there it was: coming RIGHT THROUGH THE CEILING of Apartment 3F, HIS apartment, swirling, like a tornado of light, around the chandelier and then down, down, down—
—STRAIGHT FOR HIS MOTHER.
At first he almost yelled out a warning, “Mom! Wake up! MOM!” But something made him stop.
Instead of yelling he ducked back behind the couch and watched, eyes peering over the top.
Watched as the light-tornado wheeled around his mother, so fast, so bright, that he could hardly even SEE her. But he COULD see her. Most of her, anyway.
And what he SAW...
The light poured in through the top of her head, through her eyes, through her chest, through her toes. It lifted her up—still sleeping!—and carried her out of her chair and across the room. And as she floated—
—she started to change:
Her hair became white, her nose became red, her belly ballooned like the most pregnant woman in the history of the world. Her feet grew boots, her head grew a hat, her nightgown grew fur. An overstuffed sack sprouted, like a lumpy angel’s wing, from her shoulder. And then—
AndthenandthenandTHEN, it wasn’t his mother there at all, it was him, it was SANTA CLAUS! STANDING RIGHT THERE IN CODY’S LIVING ROOM! Santa Claus who, with a laugh (exactly like the laugh Cody always knew he had, only better) and a twinkle in his eyes (exactly like the twinkle he’d always imagined, ONLY BETTER) reached into his sack and pulled out package after package, present after present, and placed them, carefully, like some Great Artist contemplating his masterpiece, under the tree.
When he was done, Santa Claus stood there, grinning and shaking his head, as if he couldn’t BELIEVE what a beautiful tree this was, how wonderful the presents looked beneath it. As if this moment was the greatest moment in the history of Christmas, as if this apartment was the only place in all the universes that such a Christmas could ever POSSIBLY happen.
And then the MOST amazing thing happened:
Santa Claus turned.
He turned slowly. So slowly Cody couldn’t even tell at first that he was moving at all. And—slowly, SLOWLY—those twinkling eyes, that Smile of smiles, fixed itself on the two boy-eyes peering, in wonder, over the top of the couch.
And what Cody felt then he could never really say: only that it was better than any present anyone could ever get. Only that it made his heart so warm it melted like magical WHATEVER IT WAS, trickling down through his whole body. Only that it made him want to reach out his arms and hug Santa Claus, hug his mother, hug his father (and FORGIVE him too, for running out on them) and his aunts and uncles and cousins (even his Cousin Erskine who was SUCH a pain) and Big Mouth Jenny Rizzo (who really wasn’t so bad most of the time) and all his friends and teachers and the kid in his karate class who always smelled SO BAD and, embarrassing as it sounds, it made him want to hug everyone and everything in the whole world including rabbits and snakes and trees and lizards and grass and lions and mountains and, yes, the EARTH HERSELF.
Cody wanted to hold that gaze, to keep his eyes locked on Santa’s, forever. (Or longer, if he could.) Wanted to swim in that incredible feeling, drown in it, till GOD HIMSELF came down to say: “Enough!”
Except that he blinked. Just once. But in that wink of an eye, Santa was gone. Cody’s mother was asleep in the chair again and, for one terrible moment, the boy thought that the whole thing must have been a dream.
Except, under the tree: THERE WERE THE PRESENTS.
Except, out the window: THERE WAS THE SNOW, the rain, the magical WHATEVER IT WAS, shooting up, like a blizzard in reverse, from every house, every apartment building. Shooting up into the heavens, gathering together like a fireball, like a white-hot comet—
—and fading away into the night: going, going...
Without so much as a tinkling sleigh-bell or a “Ho-ho-ho.”
Not that it mattered.
Cody looked at his mom.
Cody kissed her.
“I love you,” he said. And he was crying. Happy tears. Christmas tears. Like moonbeams, like sunlight. Like stardust.
Mom stirred in the chair, smiled the softest sweetest smile Cody had ever seen. “I love you, too,” she said.
And then she drifted back to sleep.
Cody sat at her feet, warming himself, warming his SOUL, by the lights of the tree.
And soon, he, too, was drifting off to sleep. And as he drifted, a wonderful thought rose up, like a balloon, inside him. Rose, then POPPED—spreading the thought to every corner of his mind. Giving him great comfort. Great delight:
“One day,” the thought whispered, “when you’re all grown-up, when you have children of your own. ONE DAY,” the thought went on...
“It will be YOUR TURN.”
© copyright 2009 J.M. DeMatteis
Thanks for the present, JM. It's just the right size, just the right color, and reminds me to do something I've been doing these past several Christmases; thank my parents again for making the young me very happy.ReplyDelete
What a beautiful, magical, and altogether fitting contribution to this beautiful, magical, and altogether wondrous season.ReplyDelete
I've been a fan of your work for a long time, Mr. DeMatteis, and have only recently found your blog - I've been lurking around here for a couple of months now, but this little piece just compelled me to comment. Beautiful, inspiring and uplifting little tale.ReplyDelete
Very glad you enjoyed it, Ken. Happy holidays!ReplyDelete
Coming from a Christmas connoisseur like yourself, Derek (or should I call you Ivan? Or Mr. Hope?), that's high praise indeed!ReplyDelete
Thanks for stepping out of the cyber-shadows and saying hello, James. Welcome...and happiest of holiday to you and yours.ReplyDelete
Outstanding, J.M. Thanks so much for sharing this tale. What I felt as reading it, I can't type, only to say there wasn't a dry eye in my head.ReplyDelete
Blessings right back at you, Tim. Merry Christmas!ReplyDelete
Was it all a dream? Does it prove that santa exist or not? Doesn't matter; only that, in those few paragraphs above, you've recaptured the feeling of Christmas wonder that I feel has been missing from many of our lives for too long.ReplyDelete
Thank you, J.M. :)
You are incredibly welcome. Sijo!ReplyDelete
J.M.- that was an amazing story!ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing it with us!
Best Christmas story ever!!!!!!ReplyDelete
That was the perfect gift from the perfect writer, J. M.! A really wonderful tale that SHOULD be published. Say with Greg Hildebrandt illustrations! It really took me back and brought about the feelings "A Christmas Story" does for me. Thank you so much! And please, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!! Best, A. Jaye WilliamsReplyDelete
I particuarly enjoy the phrase "the magical WHATEVER IT WAS" and the twist at the end. So much literature focuses on capturing the magic of being a child at Christmas, it's nice to see something that looks at it from both angles at once.ReplyDelete
Merry Christmas to you and yours, Bill—and to the Scrapyard Detectives, too!ReplyDelete
I'd love to see this eventually come out into the world in illustrated book form, A. Jaye. So glad you enjoyed it.ReplyDelete
full of wonder!
i am full of wonder!
thank you so much for that, m.--you are the master!
(plus, now i can link it on MY blog and share it with all the perhapa-fans--and THEY will be full of wonder!)
"Best Christmas Story Ever," Anonymous? Considering the competition (including my all-time favorite story, "A Christmas Carol," and my all-time favorite movie, "It's A Wonderful Life"), I should absolutely argue that point. But, in keeping with the spirit of the season, I won't. So thanks for the kind words and have a wonderful Christmas.ReplyDelete
There really are two sides to Christmas, David: the child's joy in receiving and the adult's joy in giving. The magic flows both ways. (That said, I enjoy getting a fun present as much as any ten year old.) Enjoy the holiday!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Todd, ol' building and loan pal...and thanks for linking to it!ReplyDelete
And let me take this opportunity to plug your amazing comic book PERHAPANAUTS: a perfect last minute Christmas gift for the comic book fan, if I must say so myself!
A beautiful Christmas story, J.M. Such a wonderful expression of the love a parent has for their child, and the sense of joy and wonder that child has for the world around them. Thank you for sharing it with us.ReplyDelete
It's truly my pleasure, Jason. Reading the warm-hearted responses the story's prompted has reignited my own joy and wonder...so the thanks work both ways.ReplyDelete
What a wonderful present.ReplyDelete
You're welcome, Duncan!ReplyDelete
What a sweet piece. I see a children's book in this!ReplyDelete
I've been a fan of yours for so long, its been a real treat getting to converse with you via this blog (and elsewhere!).
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, JMD!
I've enjoyed it, as well, Rob. Happy holidays...and continued good luck with THE AQUAMAN SHRINE and all your other sites!ReplyDelete
Thanks J.M. That is a wonderful Christmas present. I can't wait to read it again. :)ReplyDelete
VERY glad you liked it, Daniel.ReplyDelete
As all have said, a truly beautiful story, even to a grinch like me!ReplyDelete
You were one of my original favorite comic writers growing up, had to have whatever you wrote. This story pleases me on another level, as it reassures me that my taste in entertainers was not completely embarrassing as an adolescent!
Happy to have been a part of your journey all these years, Brian...and grateful that you're still enjoying the work. It means the world to me. Really. All the best -- JMDReplyDelete
As a parent of grown children, I have to say you have captured all the feelings of all the Christmases I've ever had in this one story.ReplyDelete
Bless you, sir. :)
I've tweeted this, e-mailed it, posted links, etc, and have gotten a number of comments on it from people who've never read a comic book in their lives (so are basically unfamiliar with your work), and they all agree; they love it. Just thought you'd like to know.ReplyDelete
Merry Christmas, JM, and thanks again.
That's terrific, Ken. Thanks for passing it on. I love the idea that I can put a story out there and just let it spread, like a cloud of Christmas pixie-dust, all across the cyberverse.ReplyDelete
Hope your Christmas is a great one!
Blessings right back at you, Warren. Merry Christmas!ReplyDelete
Awww, this is sweet! I'm Jewish and it's hard to impress me with Christmas stories, but I liked this.ReplyDelete
So happy to hear that you enjoyed it Shana. I'm the product of a Jewish mother and Catholic father, so I grew up with a little taste of everything. We had Christmas and Hanukkah, Easter and Passover. Lots of shouting, lots of guilt, lots of food!ReplyDelete
That said, Christmas holds a very special place in my heart. It really is the most wonderful time of the year; but it's a wonder that transcends any particular religion and embraces all of them. It's magic!
'tis old and new alike, fresh and fine, with gleaming heart and subtle spirit... A story of a boy, a day, and a familar stranger who we know but once a year and everyday of our lives.
'tis the season John--to think and dream--to seek and see--and here in those words--andif you just look hard enough, these--you will find a spirit of thanks and wonder that reaches out from behind words to share itself with us all.
Very well -- and very poetically -- said, Liam. Here's to a magical, wondrous, creative 2010.ReplyDelete