I was probably approaching five years of age when I dispatched my last Christmas list to Santa Claus. There was only item on it. I merely asked the great man for a postcard from the North Pole proving that he existed. Unfortunately I received no such communication, and consequently I endured that holiday season with a sort of steely, childish detachment bordering on the pathologically misanthropic. Not even a new bicycle, deluxe Ludo game, some sort of rubber thing, three cotton sweaters, several mandarin oranges and assorted nuts could console me for the absence of signed and stamped proof that my former friend Roger Eccles was a miserable liar of the most base and ignoble kind.
Of course, careless elves, the inadequacies of the Greenlander postal service, or possibly Santa's own failings - illiteracy issues? - might have been responsible for my missing missive, but even a idealist like myself was forced to admit that such excuses seemed flimsy and fanciful in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. If Santa Claus could cart sackfuls of wooden trains, candy canes and Kewpie dolls through the freezing winter night, then mailing a small picture postcard, even a zany reindeer-shaped one, shouldn't have caused him or his pointy-eared minions too many logistical problems. Only one conclusion could be drawn from the fact that my letterbox remained devoid of a jolly Yuletide message from the North Pole: Roger Eccles, rat-faced runt though he may be, was telling the truth: Santa Claus actually lived in Miami.
Fast forward many, many years to today. Now, obviously, I know that Santa Claus is really just a Northern folk memory of the Norse God Odin riding through the December night on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, distributing loaves of bread to the worthy Viking peasantry below. However, this morning, Melanie Garfield, a triple-chinned religious zealot with whom I work, said that Santa is without doubt a commercialized version of some do-gooding early Christian bishop called Saint Nicholas. I just yawned in her fat face and told her to please keep her stupid, pious opinions to herself. Frankly, I'm all through with the shifting snowdrift of fact and fiction that is the Santa Claus story. These days I'm all about the Amazon Wishlist and one-click online ordering.