When I was young, Christmas was full of wonder. How did he know what to get us? How did he visit every house? How did he get down the chimney with all that stuff? Sure, we had questions. But we never doubted. The local news broadcast stories about the Royal Canadian Air Force capturing him on their radar. We bought into it. We left him food. You don’t set something out if you don’t believe. Look to the Aztecs. Would they leave a heart if they didn’t believe? Now that was commitment! Our offerings were simpler: milk, cookies and something for Rudolph. The usual Christmas menu. In the morning, the milk was gone and only crumbs remained to tell the cookie story. Sometimes, Rudolph left a red mark on the plate (I bet Mrs. Claus kept him away from the Royal Doulton!). All fine and well. Good fun, isn’t it? But at some point, I stopped believing. This is my story.
When I was young, I was a huge fan of Sean Connery’s James Bond movies. So was my dad. We’d always sit together and watch them. It wasn’t the same with Roger Moore. I don’t mean I sat and watched Sean Connery’s James Bond movies with Roger Moore. I mean Moore’s Bond movies. It wasn’t the same. It was a chore to get my dad to watch one of those. I liked them. But my dad did nothing but complain. Moore wasn’t masculine enough. Connery was the man. That was household gospel. Despite this, my dad kept insisting that Connery wore a toupée and his chest hair was fake. Troubling news when you’re young and impressionable, but it didn’t belittle Connery in my eyes. Thinking back, isn’t that the sort of thing all good secret agents do? How was it relevant to his crime fighting skills? But I digress. Now to the chase.
Somehow, I negotiated a deal between myself, my parents and my babysitter. My sisters went to bed the regular time. But I got to stay up. At 11:30 pm, I tuned into channel 11, CHCH TV; I still remember their logo! I waited for the advertisements to end, a viewer discretion warning came on (boy – I was really onto something!) and then it started. Wow – did I ever have something to tell the guys at recess! “Dr. No” was the first Bond movie I ever saw. I was hooked. It was late, and I was tired, but I was glued to it. No way was I going to bed. I stuck with it, until the station sign off; those were the days. It planted a seed that was to have an irrevocable impact on my life, shaking the very foundations of my youth.
In the film, Bond checks into a posh hotel room. Suspecting that he is being tailed, he plucks out a hair and gently places it across a door. He leaves via a different door. When he returns to his room, he checks the hair. It’s gone! He knows someone has opened that door – and they’re waiting to ambush him! Bond quickly dispenses with the threat. That brilliant idea stuck with me. One Christmas, I decided to try it.
My mother had just finished her annual Santa Claus spiel. I carefully questioned her about his modus operandi. I was old enough now to be suspicious about the big man’s existence. I needed evidence, but I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself, or my intentions. I played along. I found out his proposed entry point – the fireplace in the living room, with the glass doors. Remembering “Dr. No”, I put my plan into action.
When no one was looking, I snatched some transparent tape, switched to stealth mode and crept into the living room, towards the fireplace. I plucked out a hair. I taped it across the fireplace doors, concealing my handy work as best I could. I fled from the living room, without being noticed. In the morning, bright and early, my mother announced Santa had visited. My sisters and I gathered around a milk stained glass and plate of cookie crumbs, as if by rote. My sisters bought into it, but I had Bond on my side. I broke away. Sneaking into the living room, towards the fireplace doors, I checked my hair. It was still there. Those doors never opened! He did not come down that chimney. There was no Santa Claus!
So, there you go. The story of how I went from Dr. Yes Santa Claus to Dr. No Santa Claus. I do recall an earlier episode that temporarily shook my belief in the milk and cookie gobbler, but it didn’t take. I think it will make a nice epilogue, though. So here goes…
My grandfather blurted out that there was no such thing as Santa Claus. My mother was furious at him. My sisters and I didn’t know what to think. I was young, but I detected some anger and resentment in his tone. I did not feel respect or reverence for what he said. We didn’t buy into it. Why did he say it? Seemed he was letting some poison out – a darkness. He wanted us to share it with him. Adults are often ill like that. Resentment, bitterness and envy are a bad cold, hopping from one to another. If they can’t help themselves, they should cover their mouths around children. If it was his plan to place a negative image of him in our minds that would persist for decades, he did a mighty fine job. If it was his plan to convince us that Santa Claus did not exist – he failed. Santa Claus is a mystery that must be solved by children alone. But if you’re looking for some mystery solving tips, take my advice – you can’t top a late night Bond film!