Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flea Market Santas

Dear George,

There are hundreds – no, thousands -- of people who are important to the course of our lives. Hopalong Cassidy and Lady GaGa are two who pop right into mind. The most important of all though is surely Santa Claus. He’s been there from the dawn of our earliest memories. When I think back to age four, there were three people of major significance in my world: my mother, my father, and Santa. My parents were important because they were around all the time and wielded great power. But, even though he was seasonal, no one matched Santa in terms of wonderment and boundless expectations.

I was reminded of this when I went to the antique flea market in Dayton. Though there are endless representations of various celebrities, real-life and fictional, at the flea market, there’s nobody you encounter more frequently than Santa. Photos, figurines, dolls, statuettes, wood carvings, cardboard cutouts, Xmas cards, book illustrations. Plus there’s all of that emotion that he generates – rewardingness, nurturance, basic feelings of well-being. This, of course, gets tempered a bit after we decide at age seven or eight that Santa is not as real as we once believed him to be. Even then, however, that deeply disturbing insight has useful consequences. Disbelief about Santa is probably the most striking marker of the transition from being a little kid to being a big kid. It provides us with dramatic proof of the potential disparity between our deeply held beliefs and reality. We learn the valuable lesson that we can’t believe everything that we’re told by authorities, even when they may have our interests at heart. Perhaps most significantly, we learn that this all-powerful giving entity is not a distant magical being who lives at the North Pole, but, rather, turns out to be our very own tricky parents.

I don’t think anybody can ever totally cast off beliefs in Santa because we are constantly faced with concrete evidence of his reality. We see him on TV and in the movies; he’s there in storybooks; we watch him in person ringing his bell outside Walmart. Here are a few photos from the flea market and the thrift shop which remind us, after all, that Santa is still a big deal.



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