Baumhower: Hello … Santa?Written by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When I was growing up, my mom’s favorite method for getting me to behave was the ol’ forward-leaning, outstretched arm toward the wall phone.
She used this maneuver anytime after September. This was a direct threat that she was going to pick up the phone, call Santa Claus and report me for being an asshole. (She also employed this tactic the rest of the year, but with the police instead.)
As a visual reminder, my mom — with her perfect left-handed penmanship — would have Santa’s number written on a piece of paper, held by an oversized magnet that also served as a bottle opener for our bottled Pepsi, hanging on the fridge mere inches from our house phone.
As all kids figure out, I eventually started calling her bluff and would continue my behavior to see if she would actually pick up the phone and start the exhausting, drawn-out dialing exercise. As soon as I heard her finger dial a short-stroked “1,” I knew she wasn’t calling my grandparents; this was a long distance call being made.
With the phone straddled between her cheek and shoulder, my mom and I would have a staredown. Each ringtone, heard by her ears and mine, would raise the stakes of the our kitchen standoff.
As soon as my mom would say, “Hello … Santa?” the mood and scenario would change. I became instantly apologetic, promising to change my ways, flashing a very crooked smile to help peddle the half-truths I was trying to sell. I would start negotiating those things I could accept as punishment instead of the ensuing conversation with Kris Kringle.
Eventually I would say or do the right thing, prompting my mom to abruptly end the conversation with a “Never mind” or “I might have called you too soon, Santa.”
As you might imagine, I was not the easiest child to raise. I distinctly remember the mounting anticipation the month of December brought. Each day, I would be allowed to tear off another length of chain made of green or red construction paper, which we assembled every year at St. Clement School.
This chain was supposed to signify the countdown of days until we celebrated the birth of Jesus, but who were they kidding? It was a 7-year-old’s way of understanding how many days were left until the big man in a red hat would arrive and enter our chimney-less house with a bag full of toys.
With each fresh piece of construction paper torn came a brief moment of relief — for a boy who inspired near-daily correspondence between teacher and parent had somehow survived another day without Santa having to deal with my mother on the phone. At the time, I was convinced I was doing Mr. Claus a favor. It might have been the one act each year that kept my name off the “naughty list.”
I’ve been blessed to have children who act nothing like me, so I have never had to reach for an imaginary phone with 50 feet of cord. But I assume this parental holiday tactic has remained and evolved some. Maybe Santa has an email address or perhaps you can text him at will?
You should also know, especially coming from the child who was pleading, smiling and even dancing for another person to hang up the phone, that we do try our best to behave during the holidays. Maybe if you didn’t allow a 7-year-old to eat 10 sugar cookies at 8 p.m. with a chocolate milk chaser, we could “settle down” or “leave our little baby sister alone.” Just saying.
Parents aren’t perfect either in the month of December.
To every mom who never called Santa and to every child who forced his or her mom to keep his number on a nearby fridge: Merry Christmas.
Jeremy Baumhower can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jeremytheproduc.