Maxed Out 

In the absence of a chimney

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When I was as small a child as I can remember ever being, well before I understood Christmas to be the stressful holiday it seems to have become for adult people, the days leading up to the Big Event filled me with one overriding fear. It wasn’t that Santa might forget me; that had never happened. He’d had my beggin’ letter for the better part of a month by then; there wasn’t much more I could do to swing the outcome one way or another.

It didn’t have anything to do with the various transgressions I’d committed over the course of the year either. I knew I wasn’t an angel but I had friends who were a lot worse than I was and their behaviour didn’t seem to jeopardize their annual booty count. I may have had the usual number of fights with my brother and sister but I wasn’t a potato-stuffed-in-the-neighbour’s-tailpipe kind of kid. At least I wouldn’t be for a few more years.

My biggest fear was this: our house didn’t have a chimney. No hearth, no fireplace, no chimney to speak of, unless Santa was dumb enough to slide down that little pipe that came up from our furnace in which case we’d all be eating barbecued elf the next day instead of turkey. This worried me… tremendously. I was tortured by images of Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen and Rudolf prancing and pawing up on our roof while Santa, looking puzzled at not finding a chimney, shrugged his shoulders, twinkled his eyes and said, "No chimney? Screw ’em. On Dasher... etc."

Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, A Visit From Saint Nicholas , very precisely spelled out the mechanics of how things were supposed to work in the nighttime hours of December 24th. By the time I was ready for bed, I figured I’d already pissed Santa off because my stocking wasn’t hung by the chimney with care. My stocking was laying on the couch or taped to the wall. Even then I understood Santa was a very, very busy guy. He wasn’t going to want to have to spend extra time at my house just because I wasn’t holding up my end of the bargain. He had a schedule to keep and it didn’t make it any easier if some wanker didn’t play by the rules. Stockings belonged on chimneys. What was there to argue about?

Of course, exactly where my stocking was really wasn’t the most pressing issue keeping me from falling asleep, a condition my parents assured me was a prerequisite for any Santa action to take place. Santa still had to find a way into our house. Mr. Moore was very clear on this point. "... down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound ." No chimney, no Santa. Capiche?

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