Happy Christmases of Youth
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — The fabulous Christmas lights that brighten up the city in cold December brought me memories of youth during Christmas, which definitely was my best time of the year while growing up in Cebu and Larena. Being the eldest child and the first grandchild, I had acquired the position of being sort of the ‘boss’ among my cousins and brother. To an extent, I think I see a lot of me like that badass character Angelica of the Rugrats.
One December day in Larena, I told Guy, my first baby cousin after my brother was born, that there was no Santa Claus. He died many years ago, I declared. Perhaps I was eight years old then, I can remember the disbelief on his face. Really? Guy asked in a lonely voice. He was about to cry while listening to what seemed to be the truth from me. And I pushed it some more. Really, there is no Santa Claus, Guy. They are just our mommies and daddies. And in your case, Aunt Linda. They are the ones who gives us gifts, I revealed.
My cousin was sad but I thought he accepted what I said because he was quiet. Later on, he intensified his demands for gifts from my uncle and aunt, which of course surprised my aunt. In a conversation at the dining table, one day, I told her that I said to Guy there was no Santa Claus, hence his incessant asking for gifts. My aunt Linda looked at me sternly, and said in a low tone voice, take back what you said. You have to take back what you said. My aunt doesn’t sound like that at all.
But Tita, Santa Claus died already, I tried to insist, as I normally did as a kid. Just take it back, because your cousin has been wildly asking for gifts everyday, she explained while looking at me straight in the eye.
Oops, I thought she was mad in a different manner. I was scared. I did not want to make my aunt angry. She was never really that angry with me. She makes the best cookies and cakes during fiesta. She’s so much like a mother who took care of me and dressed me up and took me to her school where she worked as Principal. That day, I thought she was frightening.
So after lunch, I retracted my word. I told my baby cousin again, yes there is a Santa Claus. I was just joking that there was none. And he believed in me again. Poor easy kid. That Christmas, I remember I had a lot of gifts from the many Santa Clauses in my young life. And Guy behaved pretty much, so that he was rewarded with many gifts as well.
In reckoning, I rejoice at our discipline. Behave and you shall be rewarded. Misbehave and be punished.
(The photo is taken in my grandparents house in Larena where childhood was spent with lots of love and happiness. At my back is my aunt Linda, my mom’s younger sister. The little girl in yellow is me, at about 5 years. Baby cousin Guy wasn’t born yet).