The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
Santa woke up one morning feeling out of sorts.
It wasn’t any one thing that transformed him from being the “jolly old elf” into a crusty old curmudgeon; rather, it was a series of situations that broke his camel’s back.
Mrs. Claus tried baking him a nice banana cream pie to cheer him up, but he continued to “Bah, humbug” his way through the next few days. The elves watched warily when he stomped into the workshop, scowling and muttering under his breath. Rudolph even created a laser light show, but Santa just rolled his eyes. That was when he finally spilled the beans. “I’m not up for it this year.”
“Not up for … ” Mrs. Claus began.
“The whole kit and caboodle. Making the list and checking it twice, packing the sled, hitching up the reindeer, plotting out a course that avoids restricted air space.” He took a deep breath. “I’m taking the year off.”
Which wasn’t what one would call optimal news for all the good boys and girls. All year, they’d been minding manners, completing chores, and treating elders with respect, not to mention following the sage advice of knowledgeable professionals to keep themselves and others healthy, wealthy and wise. And now, just because some old geezer woke up on the wrong side of his bed, they were looking at a less-than-exceptional Christmas haul.
Meanwhile, the bullies and potty-mouths, the knee-jerkers and lie-spewers and rumor-spreaders and intolerance-breeders and ignorance-mongers and conspiracy theorists and hucksters and pucksters and aw-shucksters were sitting back smugly, saying things like, “How do you like them apples?” and “What goes around comes around,” while picking their teeth with old corncob pipes.
“But what about … ” Mrs. Claus began again.
“The good little children?” Santa interrupted. “Yeah, I feel bad, but I look around and see so much going wrong. What’s the point? We’re still facing climate change and insurrections and intolerance and greed. I need a break. Is that too much to ask?”
“Of course not, Dear,” Mrs. Claus replied, trying to come up with some way to help her husband out of his funk. But nothing came to mind. And she had to admit, he did have a point.
That night, Santa had a dream. What he dreamed exactly is not for me to share because dreams are like windows to the soul, and souls are precious and private, but I can tell you that the dream involved many seemingly disconnected elements, such as raindrops and rivers, seeds and sprouts, and tremors and tsunamis.
At one point, an eagle swooped and a canary in a coal mine choked and wheezed. At one point, a teardrop coalesced and emerged, evaporating without a trace. At one point, seven stony-eyed serpents sang in a karaoke bar, earning a standing ovation from the crowd. There was laughter and grief and darkness and light. Truth was partially revealed for an instant, then snatched away before it could fully form. Mountains toppled and asteroids collided. And in the end, there was a sense of something elusive having come home to roost.
For whatever reason, and the reason may never be known, Santa woke up the next morning feeling like a new man.
He wasn’t quite as jolly as he had been before. He was a little more thoughtful and discerning, a little more wary and nuanced than he had been.
One of the first changes he implemented was to no longer categorize children into discrete categories of “good” and “bad” because he realized we all exist in shades of gray.
And maybe there’s a lesson we can all take from Santa’s experience. Maybe, if we can somehow learn to meet in the middle and avoid the edges of extremism, there might be hope for us all.
Brian Bindschadler is a writer and educator and a longtime Tucson resident.