‘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.”


“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 it.”

“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.




Posted on December 18, 2011, in Books, Christmas, Twas the Night Before. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. What!? My god, this book. Words fail me. There is so much wrong here.

    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.

    Got it, poor kids? The only reason you don’t get presents is because your parents don’t believe in Santa hard enough. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?

    And, as you ask… Why in hell does she need to believe in Santa? What does her belief get her? It makes her an asshole. More of one than she already is, that is. But what does it do for her?

    This: 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. doesn’t make any bloody sense. At all. Santa “made” other people give her cousin what her cousin wanted? What the? If she knew what her cousin wanted, presumably so did her cousin’s other friends and relatives. Way to – as usual – assume the worst of people Ms. Glass-Is-Half-Full. And what the hell does the necklace have to do with her cousin or believing Santa is real or anything? WTF? None of this makes sense.

    Also, Noella is continuing to act more like an Agatha Christie victim than a romantic lead. She’s just so horrid to the man who loves her. (And pretty much everyone else.)

  2. “Why spoil it for them?” contrasts so heavily with “Find out what?” that it doesn’t even make sense. “Why spoil it” implies that she knows there’s something to spoil, aka, something that you could tell them that would ruin things, but then “find out what” implies she has no idea what you could possibly say to ruin their belief. It just… makes no logical sense. I don’t… what is this even.

  3. “I’m noodling two things.” — Jenkins verbifies the weirdest nouns.

    “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.” “Me?” — No, Gary, he’s referring to Buck Williams, the Greatest Christian Reporter of All Times. Actually . . . yeah, that works for him too.

    “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.” — *cough, splutter* Well, yes. Technically, I suppose, a single solitary person can form his/her own minority.

    “And the fact that Santa had somehow made everyone give her what she wanted, well, that proved what I had believed all along.” — ummmm, and if she hadn’t gotten everything she wanted, would that have proved that Santa WASN’T real? (So much for relying on faith and not demanding proof of Jes— I mean “Santa”)

    “Say the words.” — Say them, bitch! *cracks whip* “I love you, Mommy Dearest!” . . . Jenkins could do some kinky-ass porn if only he had the inclination.

    What in God’s name is Jenkins doing here? I get that he’s trying to do a Christian belief allegory using Santa, but . . . I was under the impression that to RTCs, Santa detracts from Christmas and children shouldn’t be taught to believe in him because once they found out Santa wasn’t real, they might start to question everyone their parents said was real, including Jesus.

    Also, because this is Jenkins, who is an omg!CHRISTIAN writer, the protagonist is supposed to see the error of his ways and Convert to Really Truly Christianity. What’s he going to do with this allegory – have Noella convince Tom there really is a Santa Claus? Or is Tom going to convince Noella that she shouldn’t believe in Santa to illustrate to RTC parents why they shouldn’t tell their kids about Santa? But then the Evil Cynic would be triumphing over the Childlike Innocence and Faith that RTCs rely on. Strange. Just . . . very, very strange.

    I wonder if Noella’s desperate need to believe in Santa Claus and her desperate need to have Tom say, out loud and specifically, “I love you” are connected. She is one needy child. (Yes, despite the fact that’s she’s 32, she’s a child.)

    • “‘I’m noodling two things.’ — Jenkins verbifies the weirdest nouns.”

      Yeah, he used that one in the Left Behind series, too.

      “*cough, splutter* Well, yes. Technically, I suppose, a single solitary person can form his/her own minority.”

      *snerk* And I thought we atheists had it bad. ‘Least we aren’t the Santa Minority. 😀

      • “Noodling” as a verb typically refers to (here in the South, at least) catching fish, usually catfish, bare-handed. Which makes me picture Tom walking into work, both hands occupied grasping at the gill slits of a pair of thick-bodied mud catfish. Which is hilarious.

        Also, apologies at just now starting to look at and read these ‘Twas the Night posts. My grandmother was (and still is) undergroing radiation therapy every weekday, which has consumed a lot of my time

        Slightly less now that she’s at home and must be taken to the hospital, rather than being at the hospital 24/7 and requiring me to head up there to visit for most of the day, but still.

    • inquisitiveraven

      Jenkins didn’t invent that verb. I think he’s using definition 12 here. Pity, some of the others are funnier if decidedly NSFW.

    • My money is on Noella realizing that yes, her belief and need to believe and the miracles were all real, she just mistakenly assumed it was Santa she needed to believe in. It’ll all end happily ever after with Noella believing in the right Christmass miracle worker that is even better than Santa but believing in whom is luckily not at all crazy or childish. And Tom will join her and they kiss and make up and praise the Lord and I throw up in my mouth a little. And for once I don’t feel so bad that the RTC husband is probably going to take his RTC wife down a few notches because this female man-child acts like she actually needs a father-figure.

      I have to say, the office banter was actually kinda ammusing. It’s no Falty Towers, but considering what level of dialogue this writer was comming from, getting to passibly acceptable is a bonus. And in the same vein, Tom is a decent enough character. Can’t Jenkins write a cross-over where Tom and Isis meet and fall in love and get properly married? Tom deserves a better girl than this, and with Isis he still gets a woman who can take charge (whatever he claims, his actions don’t match those of a man who hates that) without being a meanspritive manipulative jerk about it. And Isis gets a man who can respect her and support her work AND giving her the credit for it, without trying (and failing) to eclipse her accomplishments with his swollen ego the size of the Hindenburg. As long as Tom can STFU about Isis’ accademic background, it should work out great.

  4. Aww, poor Tom. I just want to give him a hug and then tell him to run like hell.

    I think Noella is very insecure. It would explain the demands she makes of Tom, arrogance, and unwillingness to entertain the idea that Santa does not exist.

  5. Meta-Tom is crying with relief.

    yamikuronue: “why spoil it” / “find out what” sounds a lot like a former True Believer who’s trying desperately not to admit what she knows in her heart is the truth. (Yes, this works both ways, and among people I’ve known it’s more often in the out-of-religion direction.)

    Ivan: I think Isis deserves better than that. 🙂

    I think it’s worth poking at this analogy a bit. Obviously we’re meant to take believing in Santa == believing in God.

    In the real world there are very few people who will say “there is no God, that’s just a story for children”. (Though RTCs would love to think that there are lots.) There are plenty of people who will pay lip-service to the idea of a God while not actually letting it affect their lives (perhaps they go to church occasionally, but when God-time is over it’s back to normal). So saying “I am a true believer in God” is a bit odd basically because it’s not necessary – it’s the state one is assumed to be in unless one says otherwise.

    How many adults are there who will say “yes, there really is a Santa” when there aren’t any children about? I have never met one. They wouldn’t be persecuted, of course; they’d just be laughed at, like people who believe what they read in the Daily Mail.

  6. 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.

    Did anyone else read that as, “I would have been totally justified in feeling jealous of my cousin… but I got this sweet necklace that was just as cool as all her stuff, so I didn’t have to be!” Which, um, yeah, I’m not surprised you weren’t jealous if you felt like the thing you got had as much value as the things she got. People aren’t jealous when they perceive a situation as fair to them.

    I hate Noella. I hate her so much. Some people just don’t get along with their families and shouldn’t be forced to be near them, okay? Why is she so goddamn invested in having them at the wedding, anyway? It’s not Tom’s fault he happens to share some genes with them, and if there’s nothing else– no love, no liking, no sense of obligation– that makes him want to invite them, then it’s none of her goddamn business.

  7. …An almost-divorce over Santa Claus?

    Is this a world where wars are fought over what TV show to watch?

  8. You know, it seems to me like this would work a lot better if she explicitly linked this to religion:

    Some people believe that aliens were lined up outside volcanoes, some people believe that a guy came back from the dead after being executed Spartacus style, some people believe that human beings were formed from the dust of the earth, some people believe the world will end in 2012, I believe that Santa Claus literally exists. People laugh, people ridicule, but I don’t think my belief is any stranger than theirs.

    Something like that. Perhaps coupled with a certain degree of defensiveness:

    Which is more plausible, that someone and his flying reindeer make the rounds once a year, or that a french guy from the Black Death era correctly predicted the end of the world with the help of psychic powers and the aliens who built the pyramids while likewise laying the foundation for the prophecies that the wormhole traveling Third Reich would use? Have you turned on The History Channel, Tom? My beliefs aren’t that strange, all things considered.

    And some rationalizing might help:

    Of course most people don’t get presents from Santa, he’s just one man and he has only a single night, and the reindeer can only fly so fast. Only a lucky few get visited, and it’s really a crapshoot, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t real. Every year some people get presents that no one can account for. Maybe they don’t even realize it. Maybe each family member thinks someone else brought it, but they’re there. Most people don’t get visited, most of those who do probably don’t believe that’s what happened, and the rest are dismissed as young, or crazy, or both.

    It’s just one old man and eight transgender reindeer, weighed against every household that celebrates Christmas, no matter how hard he works what he does will never rise to the level of statistical noise, much less surpass it, but for those he visits a difference is made and he his real even if the aggregate isn’t noticeably changed by his actions.

  9. Between this and Soon, I get the feeling that Jenkins’s idea of creating a parable is simply to play Find-And-Replace with some pre-existent story or occurrence. Distillation and deconstruction-into-reconstruction don’t seem to be among his strong points.

    (He probably also thinks that the Parable of the Wedding Feast was something Jesus meant to be seen as accurate, not a deconstruction of the way the high priests understood the Kingdom of Heaven. That he prefaces that one with “The Kingdom of Heaven *has been compared to*”, rather than with “The Kingdom of Heaven *is like*”, should have clued him in. Likewise it coming right after the Parable of the Vineyard Workers, which it was probably supposed to be compared to.)

  10. Okay, Noelle was horrible before this, but that refusing-to-meet-your-gaze thing is something *really* worrying. It was the first step of a very much former friend of mine subjecting someone to emotional abuse in a relationship.

    I’ve got nothing but pity for Tom. It’s hard for people in that sort of situation to recognize what’s going on, especially if they really, honestly love a person. Sure, he might have his assholish qualities, pretty much everyone does. That doesn’t mean he deserves to have life crap on him a second time in the form of more abuse.

    On a slightly less serious note, when the victim finally confronted the abuser, she was met with Jenkinsian lines of *amazing* melodrama and stupid, so… accurate portrayal?

  11. noella de ville?

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