Saliek Ruffin examines childhood disappointment and the startling realization that he’s become his mom…
Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the block, not one creature was stirring, not even a hawk.
It’s the middle of the night, not a sound in the house. Except the creek of the stairs as I tip-toe down… The tree sparkles, rare ornaments paired with childhood additions, all carefully preserved down through the years. Lights are aglow, with the smell of cinnamon and cloves as they mingle with a turkey roasting in the oven.
Tantalized by the beautifully wrapped packages sparkling under the tree, the childlike heart in me flutters as I picture myself sitting in the middle of Chad and Carter’s living room…
Christmas used to be so fun, but then I started school. We came back from Christmas break and I realized… Christmas wasn’t the same for everyone.
Christmas was a different kind of fun for other kids. Kids like Chad and Carter.
Chad and Carter lived on the outskirts of the city.
Chad and Carter lived in a one family house.
Chad and Carter were actual brothers. Same mother and same father. Both of whom they lived with.
Chad and Carter had board games inspired from actual TV commercials.
Chad and Carter had a fireplace next to the Christmas tree that stood above all of their boxed Christmas presents.
Chad and Carter were my host family.
What’s a host family? Let me explain. A host family is a white family who lets a black family pawn their child off onto them.
Now, I won’t go so far as to say that Christmas with my family was treeless or not fun. I just want to say that my Christmas was different.
Sure, we had a tree. One with boxes under it. But they were the same boxes from every Christmas before. Same boxes with the same wrapping and the same fake ass “From Santa” tag. Same boxes with the same invisible gifts in them. Because the damn tree and stupid lights cost so much that momma couldn’t afford to fill the boxes with anything. So we just had those lame ass boxes.
But don’t get me wrong. This did not make me bitter, just… imaginative. I would get back to school and straight lie when Mrs. Williams asked me what I got for Christmas.
“Did you get everything you wanted?” she’d ask.
Did I? What you think? No! But I wasn’t about to let y’all know that. I won’t give you, Chad or Carter the satisfaction. Clowns coming in with their new clothes and their new shoes on, thinking they all that…And a bag of chips…With the dip.
And they got polaroids of their new games and toys. Polaroids. You hear me?
You know you from money when you come to school with pictures of your stuff and everyone else just got stories. Some of us, like me, didn’t even have real stories. I had to make up my stories. Like how me and my brother tore open the boxes to discover some of the latest and greatest toys.
But I never could actually make my story about any real, nice toys. Because we never got any so I didn’t have any examples. Plus we had no TV, so I never saw the commercials Chad and Carter saw, advertising the new toys.
You definitely know you not from money, when ya moms cancels Christmas. Just after Halloween.
“Santa don’t come to the damn hood no mo’. Y’all just don’t know how to act.”
Huh? We don’t? What did we do? We been to school all year. We been coming in the house before the street lights come on. We been doing the dishes. I been taking out that old nasty trash. Why you lie to Santa, Momma?
Fast forward to 25. I decide that Christmas will not be the same with me and my kids. I will tell them the truth about this holiday. Enlightening them and at the same time… discouraging them. So that they won’t want any parts of it. And at the same time, it’ll save me money…
Easier said than done, right? School, society, your community… They all have other plans in mind.
In order to keep big businesses booming Christmas was made to look like fun. Christmas was made to be all about the kids. All about a jolly ol’ St. Nick who rode around on a sleigh with a bunch of half-pint horses with funny ears. Sounds crazy. But really, Christmas was biz-ness.
Dollar bills, y’all. Dollar bills, y’all. Ole St. Nick had my momma chasing our dreams and working her tiny little fingers to the bone. St. Nick was the supervisor and society was her boss. Cracking that whip across my momma’s pretty, little back.
At first, we didn’t know. We didn’t see it like that. We was young, dumb and full of come. We didn’t know no better. We was kids. Christmas was for us. Right? It was us who worked so hard at being good all year. Reward us, dammit!
So I start convincing myself that my kids are not going to put me through that bullshit. I’m gonna put my foot down right out the gate. My momma told those phony ass lies to me, but I won’t tell my kids those lies…
Okay, I’ll tell new lies. Fabricated stories. Well, I won’t really lie. Just stretch the truth a little.
“If Santa was real. How’s he gonna get into our house? We don’t have a chimney?”
You see, kids aren’t as dumb as some would like to think. Seriously, how was this fat dude getting into our house, especially when we don’t got chimneys? Santa didn’t come to the hood, because where was he parking that big ass sleigh and all them half-pint horses?
Since the other kids talked this damn Santa up, I figure I gotta do something to discredit this guy and put me back in control.
I start to make my case, but then it came out. I spoke the unspeakable. ‘Santa don’t come to the damn hood no mo’. Y’all just don’t know how to act.’
There. I said it. I’ve turned into my momma.
Oh, no. Hold on a second. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is this a parent thing or a Grinch thing? I don’t want to be a Grinch…
But, on the other hand, I don’t want to be that parent who still follows that silly Santa rule. Christmas is for the foolish.
Then it hit me. There’s no way out for parents. I’d say “Go ahead and break your back working to get those toys and such for your kids, you fool.” But then it gets complicated. Because they’re having a Secret Santa at work. And we all know if I don’t participate, I’ll look like an Atheist.
But why? Maybe because society has traded in the old traditional God with the new school God, Santa. If you don’t do Christmas. You don’t believe in Jesus. Or so they’ll have you believe. They want you scared. “Who wants to not do Christmas?!” is the question they’ve trained everyone to ask. Because Christmas is believing in Jesus. Believing in Jesus is going to Heaven. Going to Heaven is the American dream…
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Photo: Getty Images