For years, I thought I had dreamed it. That it was nothing more than a bad nightmare. Something I had taken from a traditional Christmas song and contorted into a twisted, perverse vision. I was just seven years old when I “thought” I saw it happen. I guess these days, seven might seem like day-old bread to a lot of people (*cough cough* Gen Z and Gen “Alpha”). But even then, I could feel my naïveté being the one saving grace I had going for me. The one thing protecting me from the full extent of the trauma of this sighting. For to not fully fathom something in the moment, as it’s happening, is to be spared from the emotional damage just a little bit longer.
So it was that after sneaking downstairs to try and catch a peek of Santa squeezing through the chimney (never questioning what people without chimneys were supposed to do to “accommodate” the fat bastard), I saw the most disturbing scene of my life; not just of my childhood—my entire life. And that’s really saying something, because I’ve lived in Bangkok (bet you thought I was going to say “New York” to give you some sense of my “freaky deaky” familiarity cachet. But no, New York is tame as all get-out). Ah, that’s another story entirely. This is about my Christmas-induced lifelong trauma, and how, every year since that trauma (that I didn’t yet know was a trauma at the time), I have had an extreme aversion to both my mother, Renee, and Santa Claus.
At first, Renee acted as cool as a cucumber around me the following morning, never suspecting that I might have seen her cheating on my father, Clay (I know, Clay and Renee—cornball much?), with one of the world’s most illustrious men. It would have been less offensive to me, perhaps, if she hadn’t been married, or if Clay had abandoned us long ago and she was feeling lonely. That would be understandable. But Clay was the most doting, thoughtful man I had ever known. And him setting the benchmark so high for men was probably part of the reason I ended up primarily dating women instead of dick-packers.
As the morning in question wore on, Renee started to notice something was “off” about my reactions to the many gifts she had purchased for me, as well as the ones she pointed out specifically—too specifically, if you asked me—as being from Santa. Clay, on the other hand, wasn’t around to appraise my reactions because he was busy preparing the Christmas lunch in the kitchen for the many guests that would arrive later on. Renee, however, kept boring holes into my body with her calculating stares, sizing me up for signs that I knew about her dirty little secret. Oh, I fucking knew. But I wasn’t ready to let on to her that I did. It was in spotlighting instances like these that I wished I had siblings to take some of the attention off me. But Clay and Renee hadn’t ever brought up the notion of having another child after I appeared onto the scene, which, of course, made me feel like “too much.” A cautionary tale staving them off from ever deigning to propagate again. Sure, a lot of only children are only too happy to hog all their parents’ hard-earned cash for themselves, but I wasn’t. I wanted a “diluter,” as it were. Especially that morning.
But no, the more the minutes ticked by and she saw my joyless reactions to gifts I had been talking about wanting for at least half the year, the more she confirmed that I had caught her the previous night. And it was driving her to insanity—the not being totally sure without just coming right out and directly inquiring, “Did you see me kissing Santa Claus?” Thus, we did our awkward dance for the rest of the day, barely looking at one another by the time it was all over and the guests had come and gone. Was she ever just going to say something about it? Instead of making me be the one to? I was the child, not the adult—did she not understand that part of the equation? Why was she making me be the “bigger person” in the scenario by confessing to having witnessed her sin? All of this stewing she had forced me to do was already making me despise her. It was eating me alive when bedtime rolled around and she insisted to Clay that she would be the one to tuck me in. I was paralyzed with fear. Would this be the instant when Renee finally brought it up? It was a perfect opportunity, and maybe the only opportunity to attempt repairing what she had broken vis-à-vis my respect for her.
It took me a long time to realize that women don’t do things for “respect.” Not really. So much of what they do is motivated by being desired by men. Even still. I suppose that’s what made Renee give in so completely to Santa’s seduction that night. Paired with the soft-lighting ambience and the aphrodisiac of milk and cookies, Renee didn’t stand a chance against that yuletide silver fox. Maybe I couldn’t really blame her. Maybe Clay had been negligent of her for years, at least in regard to making her feel like she was desirable. And Christmas itself is a time of desire—it’s what the entire holiday (as rendered by capitalism) feeds on. Thus, could Renee really be blamed for surrendering to the intensity of the moment? The intoxication of the season? It is only now, after so many years of therapy, that I can finally start to have some empathy for her frailty. To forgive, even if never forget.
But then I become enraged all over again whenever I hear the lyrics to that disgusting song by that foul pervert Tommie Connor. It’s as though he’s making a mockery of my trauma from beyond the grave. And, for whatever reason, the song still gets rejuvenated by various cover versions that crop up like a Hydra head—even in this “everything is offensive” climate. To me, of course, there’s something particularly sinister about The Ronettes’ and the Jackson 5’s versions of the bone-chilling “staple.”
The sound of Michael singing, “She didn’t see me creep/Down the stairs to have a peep/She thought that I was tucked up/In my bedroom, fast asleep” is particularly blood-curdling. The entire composition is one nonstop horror show that precisely recreates what I witnessed that night, whether it’s John Mellencamp or Jessica Simpson also throwing their hats in to sing, “Then I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus (tickle, tickle Santa Claus)/Underneath his beard so snowy white/Oh, what a laugh it would have been/If Daddy had only seen Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.” I shudder just hearing even one snippet of a verse. Every aspect of the song feels designed to perpetuate the trauma that I know so many other children must have gone through—and will continue to go through. For I know I’m not the only one. Santa being a diabolical (who else wears so much red but Satan?—a deliberate anagram for Santa) seducer that no mother can resist, and caring not that she has progeny who might encounter the salacious scene.
As for what might happen “if Daddy only knew,” well, I can tell you from experience that Daddy went absolutely apeshit when I finally confronted him with the information in lieu of telling my mother that I had seen her. To my surprise, even though I had blatantly revealed that my allegiances were to Clay, he packed up his shit and left before New Year’s Eve, not so much as ever sending me even a Christmas card afterward. I never saw or heard from him again, forever wondering why he had taken out his anger on me in addition to her. That bitch I have no choice but to call my mother. And then I stop myself and remember “the tools” my therapist gave me to calm these fires of rage within. She told me that blaming my mother is what patriarchal society expects of everyone, including women themselves who should sympathize with the plight of the mother. Doomed to be viewed as unfuckable goods the second she pops one out. How is it her fault if she, like so many men all the time, decides to surrender to carnal temptation just once a year? Because I know Mommy kissed (and did so much more to) Santa Claus on many Christmases after that one. Eleven more years of witnessing such a spectacle was not within my mental capacity though. So I learned real quick where to snag some Jacqueline Susann-grade “dolls” before Christmas Eve arrived, assuring my quick and safe entry into a dreamless sleep where no sighting of Santa and Renee could ever occur.
The sleeping pill tradition, in fact, is one that I’ve kept up even to this day. As I recount all of this now, I’m slipping into the void. Only to have it interrupted by the appearance of Santa himself standing over my bedside with that lascivious look in his eye. I suppose it’s happened at last. Even though I’m childless (or “child-free,” if that term better smokes your dope), Santa doesn’t discriminate when it comes to seducing “Mom-aged” women. And as he kisses me with the intensity of Clark Gable or Cary Grant, I have my moment of clarity and true forgiveness. I suddenly comprehend completely why Mommy would risk causing such a fracture in our family for this one night a year. Luckily for me, I have no family to risk fracturing—mostly thanks to learning from Renee’s mistake of having one at all—and I succumb (while I cum) to Santa’s spell.