Features & Stories
THE YEAR I KNEW THERE WAS NO SANTA CLAUS


Story and photo of Linda by Trudy Frisk
Other photos by Anne Hicks

Roger, Trudy and Buddy
“ Is Santa real?” To a ten year old that’s a very important question.  I talked it over with Roger, my six year old brother.  We’d heard whispers from older kids at school.  There was no Santa, they said. “ It’s all made up. Your parents do everything. They buy the presents, stuff the stockings. They hide presents away so you won’t see them, then stay up late Christmas Eve to put them under the tree.“  We weren’t sure what to think.  We couldn’t imagine many hiding places we didn’t know about in our log cabin.

Who ate the tea and cookies we left for Santa?  “That’s easy” scoffed the big kids. “Your Dad!”  And the carrots for the reindeer?  Where did they go?  “Back into the cellar, of course!”  We couldn’t accept that.

We didn’t involve our four year old brother Buddy in these discussions.  We didn’t want to upset him.

Santa brought us wonderful presents: skis, cowboy outfits complete with cap guns, a hand-made bridal outfit for my large doll, once, even a puppy.  Presents were exciting, but the best part of Christmas was the mystery, waiting for the sound of reindeer hooves crunching on the roof, knowing if we weren’t asleep Santa would move on to the next house two miles away, trying to sleep yet stay awake for just one peek at him.

We decided not to risk all that.  We were going to stick with Santa.

Everything changed Dec. 20th.  Our mother, up till then perfectly healthy, as far as we could judge, was taken to hospital in McBride. No one explained to us children why she was going or when she’d be back.  As she was going out the door, she called me to her and said very softly, “Your Father’s Christmas present is in the trunk.  Don’t tell him. Please wrap it for him for Christmas.”

This was a shock. When Father had gone out to feed the animals, Roger and I checked.  There was the present, a big, plaid Mackinaw jacket. Now for the wrapping paper. A jacket is a bulky thing to wrap, but we managed.  Roger put his arms around it and held it together as tight as he could while I struggled to cover it with sheets of wrapping paper.  Done: back into the trunk it went.
 
 On Christmas Eve we snuck out of bed after Father was asleep to put his present under the tree. We didn’t think he heard us; at least he seemed surprised on Christmas morning. There were presents for us three children, too. Either Santa had arrived as usual, or, as we were beginning to suspect, Father had wrapped those presents when the three of us were outside playing in the snow.

We played outside a lot that Christmas holiday. Father was always ready to clean snow off the beaver ponds so we could have a family game of hockey, he played hide and seek with us, and recited, in chilling tones, The Cremation of Sam McGee. But he was not about to have three children aged four to ten in the cabin all day.  We built snowmen, and snow forts, dug out paths for the cats, and wondered when Mother was coming home.

We had a lot of time to talk about Santa. Reluctantly Roger and I decided he was probably just a story told by grownups.  Because we still liked the story, we didn’t share our conclusion with Buddy. “Let him believe as long as he can.”   

Linda -six Christmases later
One day we received exciting news.  We had a baby sister.  She was born Dec. 21st.  Immediately we began thinking of names for her. We were disappointed when Father told us he and Mother had already chosen her name, Linda Anne.

Mother came home soon after Christmas but Linda wasn’t with her.  Because she was born much earlier than expected, she had to stay in the incubator in the McBride hospital.

We speculated about her, wondered what she’d look like, what games she might want to play.  Now we had a balanced family, two boys and two girls.  Our parents had done well.

Meanwhile we noticed that more presents were appearing.  Apparently Mother had hiding places not even Father suspected. That settled the Santa question.
 
Linda was in the incubator in McBride hospital for over two months. She came home March 1st, Roger’s birthday. 

It was a sunny spring day, far removed from that dark December afternoon when he and I wrapped Father‘s Christmas present.  We each got to hold her.

“Lost a Santa, gained a sister.” we thought, planning future games and adventures.


Other articles by Trudy Frisk

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