The year my father died, it was finally revealed to me that there was no Santa Claus. Daddy was the bandit behind the missing homemade chocolate chip cookies and the gooey crumbs purposely left on the plate. Our dad was the one who made it appear as if the milk was completely drunk, leaving a creamy residue built up at the lip of the glass, as if a hefty bearded saint gulped it away savoring every sip. The real catch, the icing on the cake that absolutely proved Santa Claus was real to my 9 year old self, was the huge imprint left in the couch cushion where Santa allegedly sat. I thought it was the holy grail. There was electricity in the air. I heard Rudoph the red-nosed reindeer’s sleigh bells ringing awaken me from my slumber. Before anyone else arose, I’d tip-toe into the living room, the glare of tinsel and colorful lights blinking on my fluffy Frosty the Snowman cotton pajamas. I would slowly stroke my hands over our 1970’s plush sofa exactly where Santa sat, gently following the deep curves along the cushion from his heavy bottom, and think, “Wow! Santa Claus REALLY WAS HERE!!”. I came to learn later on that the dent left on our sofa from a set of 25 pound dumbbells, worked wonders to mimic Santa sitting.
Early November I would start drafting my letter to Santa Claus. I was careful to be a good girl each year leading up to December 24th. I was certain he had a list of who was naughty, and who was nice, and I was absolutely sure he was checking it twice. On Christmas Eve, I would consistently run to look out our apartment window three flights up and stare in the sky seeking Santa, praying he would have a clear and safe landing. I was observing weather patterns on the news to be sure it would be smooth sailing as my parents were cleaning up from the Christmas Eve parties they would host. Using the big black clicker, I would flip through all of the television channels then hang onto every word coming out of the tube from the famous newscaster, Ernie Anastos, on channel 7 WABC-TV Eyewitness News, triple checking to be sure that Santa Claus was still coming to town. The following morning, with exalted excitement, my big sister Kim and I would quietly peek at our beautifully decorated pine scented Douglas Fir to see if we could catch Santa in the act of personally hand delivering our gifts under our Christmas tree.
One year, I wrote a very convincing letter in curly cursive with my lead pencil begging Santa to give my grandmother a necklace. I think I may have been pleading for pearls. Had my little mind known how expensive pearls were, I may have requested something else. When I found that endearing letter many years later, folded, dusty, in a cardboard box with gold garland and silver nutcrackers, and maybe an old walnut or two, I reread over and over what I had written on my grandma’s behalf. I was verklempt. To think, at that age, I truly would do anything for love. (I also faintly began to wonder who advocated for me the year the Cabbage Patch doll came out? I was more than nice that year, albeit, I never received one). My vintage letter to Santa is etched in my memory along with the big smile on my grandma’s face when she opened her gift.
Grandma is long gone now and we sure do miss her. Gratefully Chooseafamily.com has a Grandma option for folks over 18 years of age yearning for a familial connection with a Grandparent figure. It’s like the old Big Brothers Big Sisters program which started in 1904, however, Chooseafamily is for adults, and with the modern twist of an extended family option. It was Kim’s bright idea to find substitutes for the whole family when the holidays became so blue for us once our grandparents and parents had passed away. It’s really sweet to see how many wonderful choices could pop up with a click on Chooseafamily.com. I wish we could Zoom with God and have a meeting with our lost loved ones in heaven. I’d have to remind Grandma to turn her camera on. I can totally see myself laughing loudly, “Unmute yourself Grandma! You need to unmute yourself!” We may not be able to Zoom or speed-dial heaven, but Chooseafamily.com can perform miracles in the meantime.
While perusing all of the wonderful substitute family member options, I came to wonder, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a Santa Claus category? With Chooseafamily.com, you’ve got Mentor, Friend, Brother, Sister, Son, Daughter, Mother, Father, and Grandparent choices. I have been pining for a Santa Claus option knowing the unbearable truth, I could NEVER find a substitute Santa. I’d pay anything for that! So, how can I find him after this long disappointing year for so many of us? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Santa was here to bring us all good cheer- to help relieve the stress from the storms, fires, floods and freezing temperatures, from wars abroad and at home, Covid, RSV, interest rates, electricity, gas bills, and protests all on the rise, homeless sleeping on the streets, and animal shelters full with no space left. Wouldn’t it be nice if Santa really was on his way?
With all of that said, I realized even if Santa was here, could he take away all of our fears? That’s when I realized, we do not need a Santa category. Our friends, mentors, and substitute family members from Chooseafamily.com can all help alleviate our fears and we can do the same for them. Even if we can no longer be with our biological family, we certainly have an option to never feel alone again. Just like Grinch learned at Christmas time, true happiness comes from inside us, and is tripled when we share it with others. Santa, this legendary patron saint of children, was never really “gone” to begin with. He is and will always be. He never “not existed”. Santa’s spirit was at the food pantries on Thanksgiving giving out frozen turkey and veggies for all of those in need, Santa’s spirit was in some kid who held the door open for me the other day, Santa was with me and my neighbor when we rescued 2 freezing cold cats, and Santa was in Kim when she started Chooseafamily.com.
Yes, Jill, there is a Santa Claus. His spirit will remain alive…inside each and every one of our hearts, always, we just have to believe.
Jill Parshley-Cardillo is a writer for Chooseafamily.com, voiceover artist, poet, performer, and freelance NY journalist. Several of her published articles can be found at https://www.clippings.me/jillparshleycardillo