It's not everyone who has a picture of themselves taken a nano-second before they stopped believing in Santa. But here you have it:
That's me, the little blonde, looking at Santa, still a believer.
I'm wearing a very fetching red wool jumper, which actually might have been fetching if it wasn't a hand-me-down from my cousin Barbara (by way of my sistert Kath). Since Babs is nine years older than I am, I'm pretty much fashion-backward in this ensemble. I have attempted to make it more fashion-forward by augmenting my outfit with a pop-bead necklace, which I made myself.
Pop beads were the Legos of the child jewelry world. You could pop them together and pull them apart, creating all sorts of pieces. These beads are reddish, white, and aqua, and I'm quite certain I have on a bracelet to match the necklace. Bring on the bling!
My stick-straight, baby-fine hair has been styled with Spoolies, a rubber curler you wound your hair around in order to - hoping against hope - produce Shirley Temple-like curls. Clearly a fail! Kath, standing behind me, has apparently had better Spoolie luck than I had. But she is, of course, two years older and much more adept at hair care than I. Or perhaps her poodle-poof hairdo is the result of a permanent, administered by my mother in the kitchen. Tonette, probably. Possibly a Lilt.
If she had a permanent, I had one, too. No way I let her get the spa treatment while I missed out. My permanent must have proved non-permanent. My hair too straight, too fine. Or perhaps I couldn't take the brain-stabbing tight plastic curlers used to give a permanent, or the smell of the chemicals, for long enough to get a good "set." Come spring, in any case, when the Rogers kids had professional portraits snapped, I had a poodle poof do every poodle-poofy as Kath's.
Kath, at nine, is not, you will note, looking at "Santa."
She is looking at the camera, her hands protectively on Tom's shoulders. At four-and-a-half, he is agog at the idea of Santa. Kath is holding him down, so he won't float off in a swoon of ecstasy.
The kid peeking out in the background is my wise-guy cousin Rob. At twelve, he's long past Santa. He is, I'm quite certain, laughing up his sleeve at his babyish, naive younger cousins. Believing in Santa. And that Santa, to boot. So clearly an imposter.
The man looking fondly, yet clearly with amusement, at his children is my father. It is characteristic of my father that, in almost every picture we have of him, he is looking not at the camera, but, rather, at the people he's with. Gotta love a guy like that. (We sure did.)
It's Christmas Eve, our first Christmas in our new house.
Until the summer before, we lived in my grandmother's decker, but have now moved to a modest standalone home on the next block, on top of a hill my father called "Old Smokey." That green living room wallpaper held up for another seven years. The weekend after JFK was assassinated, my parents repapered the living room and hall with a stylin' white with a gold design in it. We watched Lee Harvey Oswald kill Kennedy while, around us, my parents papered. But that's all in the future. This is the now. And it's Christmas.
I'm seven, and have been for a few weeks.
At seven, I'm still a believer.
Santa reaches into his bag and hands me a doll. The doll is called Vickie, and she's a toddler, but is wearing a royal blue and white outfit, with hat, that can only be described as adult.
There's also something for Kath, for Tom, and for my brother Rick. At one, he's off camera somewhere. I think Santa gave Rick a stuffed Mickey Mouse doll. Rick carried that stuffed Mickey around by holding the nose in his mouth. That pretty much took are of the black paint on Mickey's nose, which became a somewhat obscene fleshy pink. (While Rick was sucking the paint off Mickey's nose, I was chewing on the ends of the pop beads, destroying their stick-together-capability.)
At this time, we did not have a camera that took colored pictures. All we had was a b&w Brownie. (Our happenin' b&w Polaroid was a couple of years out.) My mother had borrowed a colored camera from our friends the McGinns.
As Santa was about to leave, my mother asked him whether he was heading to the McGinns.
Santa said 'yes,' so my mother asked him to return the camera to then.
I was already suspicious.
That outfit wasn't quite right. Santa was too tall. He was too thin. And why would he be bee-lining directly to the McGinns when there were plenty of houses with kids in them between us and them. Plus that Santa sounded exactly like.....MR. MC GINN!
'That's not the real Santa Claus," I cried, "That's Mr. McGinn!" J'accuse!
And, having drawn that conclusion, I realized then and there that there was no such thing as a "real" Santa Claus, and that the entire Santa thing was a fake and a fraud.
As Mr. McGinn headed out the door, my Uncle Ralph grabbed the leg of the Vickie doll, saying, "If that's not the real Santa, then you have to give the doll back."
I hesitated. No way I wanted to surrender that doll, hideous though she may have been. "Okay," I conceded. "That's the real Santa."
But that was the last of Santa for me. And I never did like that Vickie doll.
Anyway, that's my Christmas story.
Meanwhile, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy and Healthy New Year.
In keeping with Pink Slip practice, I'll be taking the week off from posting, and will return the first Monday in January.