‘Twas the Night Before: Chapters 8-11: The Really Real Santa Claus
I am excited to see that several of my wonderful readers have already come up with some great conspiracy theories regarding Noella’s necklace, Noella’s birthdate, and her family’s weird reaction to her favorite gift.
A gift which shall henceforth be known here as the Forever and a Tree necklace.
I am also amused to see that several people have arrived at my blog by Googling “stupid Christmas.”
Especially because now that Thanksgiving is over, it is officially The Christmas Season in America (sigh) and it is time for Tom to get to work on his annual Christmas column, AKA his “bah, humbug” piece.
Already I imagine I would like his Christmas columns.
Remember the Annoying Gary Noyer? He puts in another brief appearance:
Gary Noyer said, “What’ll the wet blanket consist of this year, Douten?”
“I’m noodling two things. One is the lies parents tell their children at Christmas.”
“The other is about a guy who doesn’t want one rational piece in the paper about Christmas but would rather leave our brains under the tree until New Year’s.”
“Could I get with you for an interview?”
“Shut up, Douten.”
This is an epic Petty Office Politics Battle for the ages!
Meanwhile, Tom has developed this strange obsession with the Forever and a Tree necklace. It’s all he can talk about until Noella steers him to wedding plans.
“Can I ask for black crepe paper and gloomy music?” [Tom asked]
Tom, you Magnificent Bastard!
Okay, okay, this is supposed to be Tom making a joke out of his reputation as dark and cynical, but I prefer to believe it is his cry for help. It would help me think he at least had an inkling of what he was getting into with Noella.
And Noella keeps pushing the issue. She wants his family to stand up with him–his abusive father, and/or his currently-in-prison brother, Tim. (Yes, Tom’s brother is named Tim. Tim and Tom.)
Tom tries to put the kibosh on that idea, saying he wants Rufus to be the best man, “if I can find him a big enough tux.”
Ha HA! Because Rufus is FAT, remember?
Remember how fat he is? Laugh!
Then they talk about Christmas. Tom has a lead on a single father raising three children, and thinks Noella should write about them. Since she has a goal of X number of freelance pieces every year, this is actually a really nice thing for Tom to do. He explains that the dad tells his kids “the truth” about Santa, and the family just enjoys the mythology of the story.
“Why spoil it for them?” [Noella asked]
“His kids didn’t seem any the worse for wear.”
“But how would you know?” she said.
“At least they won’t have to find out later.”
“Find out what?”
Okay, seriously? I get that Noella believes in Santa, but she also knows that the vast, vast majority of the adult human population of the world does not. Such a question doesn’t make her look innocent and sweet, it makes her look stupid.
Tom goes on to state that he really doesn’t think Christmas is so great. That is, his Bah, Humbug column isn’t just an act, as Noella assumes. He’s all for Christmas Spirit, joy of giving, etc., but…
“Of course [poor parents don’t really believe Santa will bring anything to their kids], but the story gets the kids through another cold month. Whoopee. Merry Christmas.”
Tom, you are Teh Awesomez.
“If those parents really believed, the outcome would be different.” [Noella said]
Okay, people, pay attention here! Because Noella really believes this part. Not only does she believe that Santa literally exists, but she believes that if the parents believed, Santa really would come and make poor families’ lives better.
And she’s pissed at Tom for disparaging Christmas. So much so that she pulls a few manipulative tricks: over the next week, she withholds affection and eye contact. To make sure she keeps him guessing, she won’t tell him what’s wrong. Finally, he asks her outright (go, Tom!) and, of course, she does the old “it’s nothing” and “it’s not you, it’s me.” All while telling herself that…
The distance he had detected was not intended to push him away.
So, what is it intended for, Noella? Because you mean it, that’s obvious. So, if you don’t mean it truthfully, that is, you don’t actually want to put distance between you and Tom, then you’re just manipulating him. Again.
But after the “it’s not you, it’s me” routine, Noella remains unhappy. She realizes that she has to reveal The Really Real Truth about her belief in Santa’s Really Real Existence to Tom.
Something else to bear in mind right now: this is Jenkins’ parable of faith. Noella’s faith in Santa is akin to faith in Jesus. So you better believe that we are meant to be firmly on Noella’s side as she debates with herself whether to “abandon” her belief:
Shoulders slumped, head down, hands in her lap, she sat weeping. Should she grow up, cast aside her craziness? Would she hold to a childish faith at the expense of true love? Not rationally. But she couldn’t just decide to quit believing something she desperately needed to believe.
That last sentence is just fascinating to me. She needs to believe it. Why? What would happen to your life, Noella, if you stopped? Because you are describing your belief as an emotional need, not as something you believe because it’s true.
I have always felt that religious belief (or lack thereof) is something that is mostly not subject to the will. We believe, or not, because we see evidence, or not.
But not Noella. She believes because she needs to believe. Desperately needs to believe. And that need is stronger than her need for love. She is willing to sacrifice the one for the other.
So, she tells Tom. Or at least, she beats about the bush for a few minutes:
“I disagree with you about Christmas.”
“We’re diametrically opposed on this.”
“You don’t realize where I am.”
That’s it. That’s all she says, and this is his response:
“Think anything you like about Christmas, Noella. You were born at Christmas for Christmas. It goes with your personality.”
OMG, that is so sweet. I’m serious.
He was such a great investigative journalist, why couldn’t he figure it out for himself? He had missed all the signals. She would have to force the issue.
Yeah, Noella, maybe he didn’t figure it out because YOU DIDN’T TELL HIM. It’s not like he was able to read the back cover of this book.
“I literally, really, actually–I don’t know how else to put it, Tom–believe in Santa Claus.”
“I’m thirty-two years old, a Ph.D., a fully-functioning adult. And I believe in Santa Claus. I know I’m in a very small minority, but there it is.”
Tom’s reaction is quite understandable:
“What, are you serious?”
Noella runs away. Tom chases her “like a puppy,” because he still (understandably) thinks she’s being rhetorical (also, I’m not surprised that he assumes she’s playing a game) and she tells him all about the Christmas she got the necklace:
She had written a letter to Santa, asking for a good Christmas for her cousin, whose father died before Noella was born. The cousin gots piles of phat lewt for Christmas, and Noella got her necklace.
“I got only about half what my cousin got, [but] I wasn’t even jealous. I was thrilled for her. That told me something. I was a regular kid. I could have been upset. But the necklace made up for that. And the fact that Santa had somehow made everyone give her what she wanted, well, that proved what I had believed all along. He was real, no matter what my friends, or even my cousin, said.”
WELL OF COURSE THE NECKLACE MADE UP FOR IT. THE NECKLACE IS MADE OF FRAKKING PLATINUM.
“I hoped because you loved me that I could risk telling you,” [Noella] said. “You deserved to know.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Yes, you do.”
“That I still love you? Of course I do.”
“Say the words.”
“Noella, don’t do this. We don’t badger each other semantically.”
Well, we know you don’t do that, Tom. We also know that Noella is a different story, remember?
Noella then gives Tom his ring back. He begs her not to, but all he manages is for her to hold onto it, but not wear it. Then Tom leaves her at her place and goes outside and cries. Poor guy.
You deserve better, Doubtin’ Thomas.