Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Image of comic book ad for Polaris submarine toy I would argue, in the Aristotelian sense, that the mind is a tabula rasa. Notwithstanding innate predispositions which govern one's ability to actually attain their full potential, and without writing a diatribe on self-actualization, Gestalt theory or entering into the nature-nurture debate, suffice it to say, in my view, I believe our perception of the world, our reality if you will, is a consequence of both biology and experience.

In this sense we are all born a tabula rasa; a blank slate upon which the chalk of life's experiences compose our understanding of the world. Insofar as we are all born a tabula rasa, we are all born innocent, naive and inherently trusting. It is only through experience that we learn the world is not all sweet and light. The world is not filled with dancing sugar-plum fairies, ginger bread cookies or pots of gold at the end of each rainbow.

Many of us come to the stark realization that life isn't fair at a very early age. We come to recognize there are unscrupulous charlatans, rogues and blackhearts, all skilled in the art of deception and skulduggery, who are not only willing, but equally able to hoodwink the unsuspecting. "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!" I know there's a Santa Claus. I saw him on the bus yesterday and we spoke briefly. I would have liked to have spoken to him a little longer but he was in a hurry to get off the bus.... at the stop right in front of the liquor store. I think Santa's a lush.

Growing up in a household of meagre means has the very practical advantage of teaching children the harsh realities of inequity. My late brother used to say, ""If we didn't wake up with a hard-on Christmas morning, we had nothing to play with all day long." It really didn't seem to matter how good we were all year long. The fact of the matter was that Santa didn't bring the same quality, or quantity, of gifts to our house as he did to the more affluent households. Back then, I thought it was just because we were poor. After meeting Santa on the bus however, I now realize his stops at our house were brief because the only whisky bottles he'd find at our place were already empty. Dad, you see, was indistinguishable from Santa in that regard.

* * * * *

All I ever wanted for Christmas was a submarine: a Polaris Nuclear Sub... over seven feet long and big enough for two kids! Submariner dreams filled my nights as I piloted my underwater vessel through the dark depths of Constant Lake. They were readily available in 1966, presumably as a deterrent to the Soviet menace, and they were equipped with rockets and torpedoes. Christmas of '66 was disappointing. Someone must have told Santa that I had become a soldier in the Cosanostra, or that I'd taken up animal sacrifice to pay homage to the Under Lord, because the only thing under the tree that year was a crumby pair of pyjamas, an orange and a used pink girl's bicycle. Clearly, if my submariner dreams were to unfold in the summer of '67, I'd have to take matters into my own hands. "I must become the master of my own destiny!", I concluded.

I had managed to squirrel away four bucks in my Colonel Sanders piggybank. And as I leafed through the calendar, calculating how long it would take if I saved every penny of my weekly 25 cent allowance, I figured by JuIy I would have saved enough to order the Polaris Nuclear Sub and fulfill my dream. Good fortune smiled upon my destiny that year, for my Aunt Lois gave me an Easter card with a crisp $2 bill in it. Excitedly, I rushed to my comic books, scissors in hand, filling out the order form with the accuracy of a skilled surgeon. I stuffed the whole lot in an envelope, put a stamp on it and rushed to the post box to mail it.

It seemed like an eternity before my Polaris Nuclear Sub actually arrived but arrive it did. The box it came in was not as large as I had anticipated. It was a mild disappointment in that it was clear some assembly would be required. "No problem," I resolved as I began to open the box, "Dad's got a toolbox.".

Mild disappointment turned to an overwhelming sense of despair as I started removing the constituent parts of my new Polaris Nuclear Sub from the box. There were several pieces of flat coloured cardboard and a bag of metal fasteners to hold the cardboard pieces together. The ensemble included plastic tubular components (the periscope and torpedoes) and a single bare bones bulb which constituted its advertised "electrically-lit control panel". It was, like the ad had promised, "big enough for two kids". What the ad failed to mention however, was that the Polar Nuclear Sub didn't have a bottom. It was, for all intents and purposes, a submarine-shaped cardboard floorless tent.

My comeuppance was a healthy serving of caveat emptor with a side of misrepresentation as I was robbed of my youthful innocence. Henceforth the world would never quite look the same.

* * * * *

A recent experience caused me to remember my dashed submariner dreams. Standing in front of the Price Choppers, dressed sharply in a neatly pressed Boys Scout's uniform with various ribboned-badges pinned to his tunic, the young boy asked, "Would you like to make a donation for a program to warn kids of the dangers of drugs and alcohol?"

"Hell no," I replied, "you kids ought to be experimenting at a young age so you learn the dangers through direct experience!"

His eyes and mouth got noticeably rounder and his jaw dropped slightly as he reeled in his donation jar. Metaphorically speaking, I had just sold him a Polaris Nuclear Sub.

Submitted by Norm de Plume, 06 December 2011