NOTE: Chronology plays a role in storytelling. Read A Christmas Story (1975) before reading this.
Fast forward 35 years. A new story not unlike the Christmas story in 1975 emerged in 2020. This time the cast of characters include my son, wife, technology and returning in a new role–me.
Every year for the last eight years (He’s 10 now) as far as Luke was concerned Santa Claus existed, or so my wife and I thought. We agreed from the time Luke was three years old that even though we live in Japan we create a tradition around the American version of Christmas. As you may or may not know Christmas in Japan does not have the religious connotation nor some of the other traditions it does in the US. We don’t go to church, we don’t exchange gifts with family members and Luke has yet to sit on Santa’s lap. What is common are decorations, fake Christmas trees and KFC– Yes, that KFC. For some reason KFC got its greasy little marketing fingers inside the Japanese consciousness resulting in their associating KFC chicken with family and Christmas.
Going on this notion of Christmas in Japan, we thought it best to at least extricate KFC from Luke’s consciousness before it’s too late and replace it with Santa. We started with the tradition of letter writing. Up until the time Luke could write, he and I would work out what he wanted to say; “I’m a good boy, I do my homework, and I am nice to Mom. Oh, by the way I would like (Insert latest toy or trend here) for a present.” As his English writing improved, he wrote the letters himself. And every year my wife would address the envelope and mail it–nod nod, wink wink.
On Christmas Eve we’d make sure to leave milk and cookies on a small table next to the tree. And every morning upon waking there was a bite out of the cookie, less milk in the cup along with the requested present under the tree. This went on every year without a hitch until 2020. Luke wrote his letter asking for a manga (comic) book series. He gave the letter to Mom and off it went to the hideout and home to all the other letters written over the years. A few days later his Mom told me about an online shop that was selling the comic series Luke wanted. Apparently, they were popular and hard to find. So as not to miss out she bought them right away.
Luke’s Mom is fond of taking pictures and uploading them to Instagram, whether it is food, Japanese landscape or in this case the comic book series that happened to have arrived in the mail. No issues, one would think. Here’s the thing, Luke is at an age where he has an iPad and an Instagram account. While his followers are few, he is following many including his Mom. As you know whatever Mom posts son sees.
A few days before Christmas while hanging out in Luke’s room I asked him to take out his iPad and pull up his Instagram account. I told him that I’d friended some well-known English premiere league soccer players. As a soccer player and fan, he can friend them on his Instagram account. As I was waiting for him to pull up his account, I got caught up reading an email message on my smartphone. This allowed Luke time to scroll through the photos on his account including the photos of the comic book series unwrapped and wrapped his Mom had just posted the other day that I didn’t know about. Then he asked, “Dad, what’s this?” Still reading the email I didn’t get a chance to answer as he got up to track down his Mom to pose the same question.
I still had no idea what was transpiring until his Mom poked her head in the room with his iPad in hand and said, “Looks like Santa posted your comics on Instagram.” Looking at Luke thinking to myself, “Will he fall for this?” Face registering says, NO! He wasn’t buying it, so I chimed in, “Yeah Santa has become tech savvy so it doesn’t surprise me.” His Mom chuckled possibly giving away the ruse. Then I did the next best thing and changed the subject asking, “What’s for dinner?” Ipad in hand Luke sat down next to me on the bed and as if nothing happened I said, “Search for Vardy on Instagram.” Vardy is a well-known player on the Leicester soccer team. He did and tt seemed we dodged a bullet.
The next morning was Christmas and before going to school, yes school on Christmas day, Luke was up a little earlier knowing he would be opening his present. Spying the half-eaten cookie and glass of milk he went straight for the present and unwrapped it. Sure enough, it was the 32-book manga series, and proceeded to read the first one during breakfast. Later when he left for school, I asked his Mom, “Do you think he suspects?” She replied, “Yes,” and I agreed as we laughed. My reply, “Well he is ten and it is time he knows the truth.”
That evening while Luke and I were watching “Match of the Day,” a soccer highlights television show, I casually asked, “Do ya like your present from Santa.” His sheepish reply, “I do.” It was then that I decided to go for it, “What do you think about Santa.” Hesitating, he answered, “Mom is Santa.” I corrected him and said, “Actually me AND your Mom are Santa.” And a follow up question, “How long have you known?” Again, he hesitated before answering, “Since I was in third grade.” (He’s in fifth now) Surprised, I said “What! Are you kidding me? You’ve known for two years? “Yup,” he said. I asked, “How? And he explained that his friends told him. He went on to explain that he didn’t’ want to tell us because he didn’t want to hurt our feelings that he knew. I burst out laughing and gave him the biggest Minnesota bear hug saying, “That’s my boy!”