For Christmas, we drove to the countryside to spend the holiday with my husband's family, their in-laws and some extended family. Champagne flowed like water and we ate our weight in oysters. In the lull before we broke out the gifts, we started talking about St. Nick. The family started saying Santa Clause (instead of Père Noël), followed by a wink and a smile in my direction. For whatever reason, however, no one could pronounce the name right and kept saying "Santa Cruz."
"Be good, children. Santa Cruz is watching." "Don't you believe in Santa Cruz? We get lots of presents from Santa Cruz!"
One eight-year-old distant cousin, Jules, was one of the last in his class who still believed in Santa Cruz.
"I think this may be the last year he believes in him," his grandmother told me during the apéro. "None of his friends at school still think it's true."
My in-laws' family tradition is to have someone dress up as Père Noël and stop by, giving the presents to the kids before disappearing again. This year, the role fell upon my husband. All decked out in his Santa suit with a little red wagon in tow, he waited outside a bedroom window while inside, his sister and myself passed him the toys to load into the wagon so he could make his appearance entering from the garden.
We were halfway through when I noticed that my partners in crime had stopped and were looking behind me with horror on their faces. I turned around and there in the doorway was little Jules with his mouth hanging open. Three of us stopped in our tracks. A painfully awkward pause ensued. It was my sister-in-law who jumped into action, ushering him out of the room while I tossed the last gifts out the window.
We all gathered in the living room moments later, playing it cool, while nervously wondering if we had just ruined his Christmas. It could have been Santa he saw. How does Jules know that Father Christmas doesn't routinely have presents inspected by families to ensure their maximum enjoyability before handing them out? Some sort of customs he must pass before delivering the gifts, just in case he's about to give a talking Malibu Barbie to the daughter of a bra burning feminist. It could happen.
When my husband, Santa, did pass by and leave the goodies, all the kids were equally excited.
"Did you get good toys?" Jules' grandma asked him later. I prayed he wouldn't breakdown and point a finger at us, screaming that the three of us had sabotaged his childhood holiday fantasy. Luckily, he just gave a genuine (or convincing) smile and said, "Yes. Merci, Santa Cruz!"