When you first find out you’re adopted, everything changes. Your parents,
Saul and Judy Schwartz, aren’t really your parents. Your bratty sister Rachel isn’t
really your sister. And, you’re told, you aren’t really Jewish after all. Still, you go to
college, despite your natural gentile instincts to be a carpenter, and you take some
time off before law school to go to church and ask a few plastic surgeons about
reacquiring foreskin. After college, you find an apartment with a fireplace in the
Irish part of town. You get a tattoo. You buy The Bible and only read the end. And,
most importantly, you buy a Christmas tree, decorating it with crucifixes, and strips
of bacon wrapped around blocks of cheese.
On Christmas Eve, you leave cookies and milk on a table by the tree. You fall
asleep, dreaming about the bare knees of Catholic school girls in plaid skirts and
the peppermint scent of a thousand candy canes overflowing from your stocking.
You are startled awake by a rustling sound. You creep into the kitchen with a
baseball bat. And, there he is. The fat man. Jolly Rodger himself. Saint Fucking Nick.
“Ho, Ho, Ho?” he says, eyeing the bat in your hand, his guilty beard covered in
cookie crumbs. He has a familiar look about him, you think, and not just because his
is the face of Christmas. It’s like you have seen his eyes before. His smile. You
wonder if maybe this is the guy who cuts your corned beef at Stein’s Deli. Then, it
hits you. The truth. And you say, “Dad?” And, he says, “Son?” You drop the bat. A
sensation rushes to your head, like you just drank a Cherry Slurpee too fast, and you
stare into the gaze of your biological father, Santa Claus, for the very first time.
You had wished that yours was the stock of movie stars or race car drivers-
not some fat fairy tale. But, you have never seen anyone with your DNA before, so
when he opens up his arms to you, you fold in for a hug. And, hugging your long-lost
father feels like falling in love. He is soft like a marshmallow and he smells like a
smore from all of the chimney smoke. While hugging him, you think about some
happy moments from your childhood, like getting dressed for Halloween and
birthday parties and recess. And, all of those memories include your “other” Dad, Dr.
Schwartz, and you think about HIS hugs, which are more manly, more muscular, and
you think about how he always smells like band-aids and mouthwash.
It occurs to you that you are cheating on him with Santa, and it feels terrible,
like when you cheated on your ex, Danielle. So, you loosen your side of the hug and
you gather your thoughts. Then, you look at your Bio-Dad, the myth in red and white
and flesh before you, and you ask him what you’ve always wanted to know.
“Why did you give me away?”
Santa releases from the embrace as his fabled jolliness leaves his eyes.
“Look, kid, I’m sorry. I really am,” he says.
“I had a lot on my plate back then. The naughty and nice list was really long
and Rudolph was going through a very serious bout of depression.”
He shoves an oatmeal cookie into his mouth. You both listen to him chew.
“I’m not perfect,” he says. “Is that what you need to hear? Santa’s not perfect.
Ok? Some people want me to be Jesus Christ because of the whole Christmas thing,
but I’m not. I don’t have any answers. I’m just the guy who flies around with
presents and hangs around with elves.”
He shrugs his shoulders, then looks into your eyes as he shouts- “Merry
Christmas”- into your face like a nervous tick.
You close your eyes and take a deep breath. This is not going how you always
wanted it to. But, your disappointment does not deter your curiosity, so you change
“Who is my mother?” you ask. “Can you tell me anything? Anything at all?”
“Your mother is the most beautiful woman in the world,” he says, and you
feel relief because for a moment he is being more real.
“Did you love her?” you ask.
“More than Christmas,“ he says. “But, in those days, I couldn’t keep it in my
pants. And, when she found out I was married, it was all over.”
Your stomach drops as the taste of bile and eggnog rushes to the back of your
throat. You gulp.
“But, you know where everyone lives, right? If you wanted to, you
could get in touch with her?”
“Oh, we know how to find each other,” he says. “And, I know Amelia kept
tabs on you too, every time you lost a tooth.”
You feel stiffness in your jaw and neck, like you just received a shot of
Novocaine. You want to know why, after all of those nights of coming to your room,
why not once did she ever wake you, hold you and say, I’m sorry, baby, I really wish
I could have kept you?
But, those are questions for her. You ask him a barrage of other questions:
“Does she speak with an accent?”
“What does she do with all of those teeth? Does she turn them into
jewelry? Are they currency in some enchanted realm?”
“Does she have wings? Why don’t I have wings?”
“How did you meet? Are there underground parties for magical people?”
“Why didn’t she keep me?”
Santa Claus doesn’t answer any of your questions. He looks down at the
table, empty, but for a dirty glass and a plate full of crumbs.
You invite him to stay the night. You offer him the pullout couch. You have so
many more questions. Should you be worried about prostate cancer or male pattern
baldness? Do you have any magical half siblings, like a mer-sister or an elf-brother?
When did he find out he had special powers? And, when are you going to get yours?
You tell him that sometimes you have psychic dreams and that once you fell off of a
pretty big cliff and you didn’t break any bones. You tell him about the time you
scored four goals in a JV soccer game, and about staying up for three days straight,
then getting an A on your Calc midterm. But, he just smiles at you like you’re some
kid on his lap at the mall. He looks at his wrist.
“Well, what do you know,” he says. “Time to get back to work. It is Christmas
Eve after all, and millions of good little girls and boys around the world are
waiting for their presents.”
“You’re such a fake,” you say. “You’ve got the whole world thinking that
you’re God’s gift to children, but you don’t even have time for your own.”
And then you add, “It’s because I’m Jewish isn’t it?”
But, guilt does not ground Santa’s sleigh that night.
You stay up until the sunrise, drinking away your confusion. You try pulling
out one of your teeth, using dental floss and a can of chicken noodle soup. You watch
“A Christmas Story” and you drunk dial your ex-girlfriend, confessing what you did,
and telling her that you still love her. The following morning, you awaken to the
spins and a mouth full of blood.
You crawl towards the bathroom past a tree that smells like rotten meat and
moldy cheese. While you puke, you think about the millions of Christian children
around the world, waking up to presents, and you realize that he didn’t leave you
shit. You imagine all of the quarters under all of the pillows out there, and you puke
You take some aspirin with your coffee. You brush your teeth three times,
and take a long, hot shower, trying to relive the events from last night in your
mind. You check your phone, looking for more clues. You have a text from your ex:
DONT CALL ME. You also have a voicemail. It’s from your Dad:
“Hey Pal, it’s your father. Well, you said that you were going to be exploring
your Christian roots this year, and I wanted to support your soul searching by
wishing you a Merry Christmas. (you can hear your Mom nagging in the
background) Oh, and, remember that Rachel’s birthday is in two weeks. (more
nagging) Ok, Ok, I’ll tell him…and call your grandparents. All right. Be good. Love ya.
Call me back.”
And, it occurs to you who was there when you scored four goals for the JV.
And, who was there when you were in the hospital after you fell off of the cliff. And,
who changed your diapers, and who pays your rent, while you’re “soul searching.”
And, it occurs to you who is there for you right now, together, probably eating
bagels with cream cheese and lox and whitefish salad, treating Christmas like it’s
just another day off. And, you call your parents to wish them a Happy