So I went to New York, Santa, to became an artist.
My world enlarged and opened up.
For an artist must first of all be an observer of life!
Christmas in the city was fun with all the lights and music and shoppers.
But I still didn’t believe in you.
Besides, which one would I believe in?
You were on every corner!
I suppose most boys and girls outgrow Santa Claus for a portion of their lives… but most of us come back, don’t we, Santa?
Many Christmases came and went.
I worked hard in the city and did well, as they say.
For years I was a carefree bachelor.
Because I didn’t want to fall in love.
I was afraid to.
Then one Christmas I met a girl at the office party.
She was kind and had a great sense of humor.
She also had nice legs.
I couldn’t help myself. I fell in love and guess what?
She fell in love too.
We fell in love with each other.
That was my lucky year because guess what again?
She was the boss’s daughter.
We got married and travelled the world on our honeymoon.
At Daddy’s expense.
Her father said take your time my son and enjoy, then come back and be a better artist than ever.
He loved his daughter very much.
It was easy to see why.
We saw in our travels that the world was a beautiful place, but not always a fair one.
And I filled my artist’s eye with the wonders of the world.
Boy! I must have drawn Barbara at least a million times while we were on our honeymoon! Posing on a rumpled hotel bed, her shapely limbs silhouetted against the sheets, her smile natural yet alluring…
That’s the name of my wife. Barbara. She’s on your Nice list for sure.
She was way more fun to draw than a salamander or a horse!
Back in New York, I worked hard at my art and my marriage and my friendships, and life flowed along nicely.
The love Barbara and I shared for each other deepened and matured.
I put out a successful book of Barbara drawings.
You might remember delivering a bunch of them because it sold like hotcakes that Christmas.
Barbara was a bit embarrassed, most of them being nude studies.
But I thought they were pretty good drawings, and nothing to be embarrassed about.
So Barbara talked to my aunt Sissy on the phone about it. Aunt Sissy said the right thing again and we all felt better about publishing nude drawings of Barbara in coffee-table art books.
Art for art’s sake, I always say.
Then came a second volume of Barbara studies, called The Honeymoon Series.
After that Barbara told me to find another subject.
So today I draw rare axolotls for museums and zoos around the world.
I still draw Barbara too, but I don’t publish those drawings.
Barbara and I had children and taught them to face life with bravery, honesty, and humor.
To treat it all as a bit of a joke and enjoy a good laugh.
As parents we taught our children all kinds of things.
And sometimes they taught us.
When he was sixteen I taught our eldest boy to make the occasional gin and tonic for my wife and I.
We figured he could start to learn about alcohol that way.
Like I learned from my stepmother, only different.
Because children, as you know Santa, learn all the time from everything they see and hear.
He was very proud of his status as our personal bartender and Danny loved to please.
That’s our eldest son’s name. Danny.
Look for him towards the top of your Nice list.
“Lime or lemon in your G&Ts?” he used to ask.
“Doesn’t matter, son,” I answered. “Either one will be fine.”
“Dad,” he said one day as he handed me a drink, “I think I’m gay.”
“Really?” I said. We talked about it awhile. I never told my children about Boris or the art teacher, not because I was ashamed because I wasn’t, but because I didn’t want to make a big deal about it or change the natural course of my children’s own sexuality with the knowledge of it. Sometimes too much knowledge can be a bad thing to a young heart, like when I overheard aunt Tootsie and the milkman call my father a drunkard that day in the kitchen, so I didn’t tell my son about Boris or the art teacher then either.
Instead I said, “Doesn’t matter son. Either way is fine. Just remember to respect yourself and when in love… always follow your heart.”
“Thanks, Dad,” said my son Danny and we hugged and something beautiful fell into place.
Well! I really got it off my chest, didn’t I Santa?
Rusty’s life story.
(You’d be surprised how much I left out!)
But I wanted to get in touch again.
And wasn’t sure if that was the real you on Facebook or not.
It looked like you, but I couldn’t be sure.
So I decided to write you a letter.
Didn’t know it would be such a long letter.
Sorry, but you being Santa, I figure you’ll forgive me.
You wonder why I write, after all these years?
I’ll tell you.
Because I have grandchildren now.
And they want to believe in Santa Claus.
And funny, but what they want, I want.
Because their laughter means the world to me!
We have an axolotl too, named Shakespeare.
But I don’t think he believes in anything.
I hope Santa you continue to share your gift of generosity and good cheer among people the world over. All the world’s people, please, whoever they are, because if one of us is hurting, all of us are hurting.
That’s what you teach us, isn’t it?
That it’s better to give than to receive?
That we’re all human beings together, sharing our journey through the natural world towards eternity. That we should try to love and understand each other.
Yes even Boris and my cruel stepmother.
Whose spiritual pain must have been immense.
They’re gone now. Crossed off your Naughty list years and years ago. Dead in a car crash on La Brea down by the In-N-Out Burger. My father was behind the wheel. The car they were in was struck and exploded in flames.
Ironically hit by a drunk driver.
On Christmas Eve.
Life’s funny, isn’t it Santa?
Well, that about brings us full circle.
Say hi to Mrs Claus and the elves for me.
And please remember;
I’ve been a good boy again this year.
PS. If you’d care to prove your existence by slipping a new iPad under the tree… I’ll leave out some milk and cookies.