He sees you when you’re sleeping

Those were nightmare-worthy words to my four year-old self.

My five, six, seven, and eight year-old self, too.

I was scared to death of Santa.

Like many children, I barely slept on Christmas Eve. There was anticipation for the gifts, don’t get me wrong, but I took literally that line from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Tucked tightly in bed, my ears were tuned for the slightest floorboard creak or gift wrap rustle that would indicate his arrival. I worried that in addition to placing a sleigh-load of shiny packages around the tree downstairs, he’d sneak into my room and hover over my bed. Several times that night my eyes would pop open, staring through the soft glow of my nightlight to see if it glinted off the white trim of his furry coat. If I had to pee, I would hold it. There was no getting out of bed.

By the way, Jesus’ omnipotence was just as terrifying to the younger me. You’d think I was a deviant with so much to hide. Nope. Just a freaked out goody two shoes. I can only imagine what would have happened if Elf on the Shelf existed during my childhood: a Xanax prescription for the month of December.

I cringed when my mom took me to the mall, and begged her to avoid the lines of rambunctious, sugarcoated children eager to take photos with the jolly ol’ fella. In retrospect, I was probably doing her a favor.

Roving Santa in a department store was the worst. At least seated, I knew where he was. His ho-ho-ho-ing from aisles away was like an air raid siren. Hearing it, I would frantically search for places to take cover.

One time I toddled myself right out of Sears, leaving my mom hurrying behind me to catch up. I had learned the hard way that cowering behind her wasn’t any use. Santa — also true for the Easter Bunny, Disney characters (Disneyworld wasn’t exactly the happiest place on earth), and pretty much anyone who was tall, loud, and approached me like I couldn’t wait to greet them — would see me hiding and think I was playing a game.

Don’t you see the anguish in my eyes?
Dear God, I do not want your candy canes!!!!

For all the terror, I loved Christmas, and still do. The flickering lights and yummy cookies; the stories of peace, love and good cheer.

I’ll leave you with my first, and perhaps only, photo with Santa ever, taken when I was 13. Note the attractive braces and ridiculous perm; clearly it was the 80’s.

I gifted this to my mom that year as a somewhat-serious attempt to laugh at a joke everyone else already found funny. It has graced the mantel ever since.

Merry Christmas from Santa and me to all those who celebrate!

Santa baby

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