When I was little, I believed in Santa Claus wholeheartedly. My belief system included bits and pieces from different versions of the Santa lore I’d seen on TV Christmas specials, plus what I’d learned from my own family.
For example, I knew Santa Claus didn’t really travel the entire world in one night. With different time zones and not everyone celebrating Christmas simultaneously, he actually spent several nights making all his deliveries. I knew he had a magic key that fit all the doors of houses that didn’t have chimneys. And I knew who he was. He was Saint Nicholas, a man who was called by God to give children presents on Jesus’ birthday.
The only thing I hadn’t quite figured out was where Santa got his toys. Of course I knew that he had elves to make toys, but everything I’d seen suggested elves only made wooden toys, like rocking horses, or maybe cloth toys, like rag dolls. So where did Santa get all the plastic toys and electronics? Did elves copy the manufacturing designs of Sony and Mattel? Or did Santa go shopping? If so, where? How did he do it without being seen? And then what was to become of the elves? Were they just sitting around the workshop waiting for the odd rocking horse request? This was the eighties, when was the last time a kid asked for a rocking horse?
I couldn’t reconcile these things until the Christmas of 1986. I was seven years old, and on Christmas morning, I opened my stocking and pulled out a shiny metallic clown holding balloons. It was an ornament, and on the back of the ornament was a price tag.
“Mama! Santa Claus shops at Wal-Mart!” I shouted.
And on the front of my new ornament, etched in one of the balloons was my name and the year. Now all my questions were answered. Santa Claus did the shopping, but that tiny etching on the front was clearly the handiwork of elves. I still wasn’t quite sure how Santa managed to go shopping among the general public undetected. I guess there were some things that could only be explained by Christmas magic.
All I caught was a spray of saltwater in my face and sunburn on my skin.
The boat rocked, and my belly ached.
I belly ached.
I came home wet, smelling of mud, salt and gas fumes.
You told me it would be better next time.
You were right.
The evening breeze was mild, the water smooth and grey.
we caught the pinks and blues and oranges of the sunset.
I came home in love.
Still no fish.