Through the series of Pod books, Christmas has a special significance to the members of the Pod. This is largely due to the efforts Josh takes to make it special for them the first couple of years, building on what they had experienced when the Pod was still living and learning in the Nursery with Dr. Marcel.
This story takes place “behind the scenes” in the Pod Holiday Story from last Christmas, “Finding the Magic.” That story focuses primarily on Marta’s POV, and I felt like it would be good to see some of it from Josh’s POV. Merry Christmas, and I hope you enjoy this gift.
The Santa Stigma
By Rick Higginson
He found the box in the island store room where he’d stashed the stuff from the house that he had wanted to keep. It wasn’t as dusty as when he’d removed it from the garage at his house, but it still seemed to have accumulated more than it should have in the short time it had been in the new location. He blew the dust away with a well-directed breath, and read the writing on the top. His father’s blocky print listed the contents, and for a moment Joshua Cardan felt again like a little boy holding his parents’ treasures.
The box had been sealed since the winter before his mother died, packed away when joy had still filled their old home. The following year, when Josh had brought it down from the attic, his father had just left it sitting unopened in the living room for a few days, before taking it back to the attic. Without her beside him, he had seen no point in celebrating. By the next winter, Dad was again beside Mom in the adjacent grave.
When he’d sorted through his parents’ possessions before putting the house on the market, Josh had not been able to bring himself to donate the box along with so many other things. Though it had remained unopened, he had stored it in his new house, and then brought it out to the island.
He carried the box to his new office and placed it on the desk. With his pocketknife, he sliced the tape across the top flaps, and with an almost guilty feeling, opened it. The plastic bags inside were all still sealed, and he lifted the first from the box. The old book showed its years of use, and when he removed it from the bag, he thought he could still smell his mother’s favorite lotion lingering on it. I never grew tired of hearing you read this one, Mom. What I’d give to have you here to read it just once more.
With the book set to one side on the desk, he removed the box of special ornaments and placed them safely aside, and then reverently touched the clear bag that was next in the stack. The crimson fabric within had not faded over the years, nor had the memory of the conversation he’d had with his father the year the suit had been made.
Santa Claus, Dad? Santa has to be the cruelest hoax ever foisted on kids.
Whatever do you mean, Josh?
Look at it, Dad. You know what some of the kids at the Country Club are like, and even though everyone knows they’re not good kids, they’re going to get more toys from ‘Santa’ than any ten kids ought to get. Yet, Diego’s siblings are all good kids, but his parents can’t afford to buy anything near the number or quality of gifts. How do you explain to someone like Diego’s little sister why she was good and got so little, while an obnoxious spoiled brat got everything she asked for and more?
You already know the answer to that, son. We can’t really explain away the stigma that goes with the Santa story, but that’s not the point of Santa Claus at all.
So what is the point? Why spend so much getting a custom Santa suit made to wear to this charity event if even you can’t make sense of it all?
What makes you think I can’t make sense of it?
You just said we can’t explain away the stigma of the good and bad disparity.
Josh, what is Santa all about?
Scaring kids into being good, so they get gifts on Christmas.
No, Josh. Maybe that’s what it looks like too often, but what Santa Claus is really about is the magic of giving with no expectation of receiving. The man that the legends started with did that, and it follows the whole theme of the original Christmas story. I’m not going to put on a Santa suit to scare kids into behaving. I’m going to put this on so I can get into the character of someone who gives gifts, not exchanges them.
I never thought about it that way, Dad.
You would never have thought about the disparity between your gifts and Diego’s a few years ago, either. You’re growing up, Joshua. You’re developing empathy and a sense of fairness. Someday, the Cardan business is going to be yours, and I hope you find the opportunities to use what you have to give to others.
I could do that without wearing a silly red suit, Dad.
Yes, you could, but I hope you never grow so old that you can’t find a little magic in being Santa Claus.
He lifted the Santa suit from the box. I can’t fill this suit the way you did, Dad. I’m not sure I could even wear it without getting it altered to fit me, but I found the magic. He opened the bag and removed just the hat, placing it on his head with a growing smile. I wonder if you and Mom can see me. What would you think of the Pod, Dad? Would you find Marta as delightful as I do?
He separated the large red bag from the rest of the costume, and resealed the plastic around the suit. With a shake, he opened the bag and began transferring decorations into it. It’s Christmas Eve, Dad, and I’m going to be Santa Claus. I don’t care about the stigma any more. I don’t care if some people don’t like Santa, or if they think he represents all that’s bad about the commercialization of Christmas. He grabbed a tissue from the box in the side drawer of his desk, and wiped his nose.
It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m really looking forward to giving with no expectation of receiving anything in return, Dad.
With the decorations and some candy in the bag, he placed the book on top and pulled the drawstring tight. The bag with the tree was already waiting near the ladder to the Pod’s cavern, and while the utility tunnel was no chimney, it seemed completely appropriate that Santa should arrive that way.