Monday, December 21, 2009

The Fat Man and His Trash

We never taught our kids to believe in Santa Claus. We just taught them the obvious truth: that Santa Claus was as believable as Bugs Bunny. As a result, our family enjoyed the secular side of the holiday season without taking any of it seriously. The biblical account was serious and we never joked about the birth of Jesus. But Santa was quite another matter.
The result was some comical, unintended consequences - sort of unintended, anyway. Since our kids knew that "Santa Claus" was not to be taken seriously, any time they spotted a man dressed as Santa, they pointed out his presence with their own label. I'm not sure which of our three started it, but they began to refer to every Santa they saw as "the Fat Man." Not very complimentary, but with dead-on accuracy. And since his ever present bag of toys loosely resembled a Hefty bag left at the curb, Santa's load was designated "the trash."
Thereafter, we could never go into a mall, department store, or past a Salvation Army bell ringer without hearing, "There's the Fat Man and his trash!" Our son who's never had a quiet bone in his body would sound the declaration at ear-splitting decibels just to make sure that Santa got the message. Naturally, Santa objected. So did the parents who shifted nervously in line while waiting to take their little ones to pay homage to the Fat Man.
We have no idea how many children saw the light in that moment of revelation (or how many stuck the parents later with the question , "What's the big idea of lying to me all these years?"), but we didn't care. Whereas normally I would have turned crimson with our kids' public exposure of the overweight-department-store-employee-turned-Santa, this time, I smiled and agreed, "That's right!" and kept walking. It wasn't long before our kids became evangelistic and convinced their friends that Santa Claus was indeed "the Fat Man and his trash." Today, our children are ages 32, 30 and 22. They still react to the Fat Man every time they see him. And their evangelism isn't over. We have grandkids now, and I can't wait for their own moment of truth.

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