No, Virginia, I’m not Santa Claus

But I appreciate you saying I look like him.

More than once, children have asked me if I am some bizarre embodiment of Father Christmas… a younger version perhaps, but considering how old the fellow must be by now, that’s still not exactly top-notch flattery.

Maybe the ‘N’ in N. Robin Crossby does stand for ‘Nick’, but I think of that as my nickname, and I have not yet been canonised. Truth is, my father’s name is Victor, and my older brother’s name is also Victor. It was my mother who ordained that she would not have two Vics and a Nick in the same house, because no one would ever come when they were called. She insisted that everyone call me Robin. She may be gone, but I’m not ready to cross her on this; my mother was a formidable woman and threatened to haunt me (and not in a nice way) on more than one occasion.

Maybe I have a jolly-looking belly, but that’s not intentional. The size of my belly has a more sinister genesis… not my fault… and my belly won’t wiggle, although it looks like it should.
I don’t live on milk and cookies (not enough fat/flavour for my taste).

Red may be my favourite colour, but I seldom wear it (never on away missions), and I’m against ‘real’ fur in any case. (Well, I’m not ‘against fur’ per se; I think it’s fine on the critters wot grows it).

Speaking of fur… My beard and moustache are not white; they are a youthful ‘auburn-blonde’ (not ginger and white as some would have it). Nor are they long and thick (after all, they exist simply to save me the trouble of shaving, certainly not for aesthetic reasons). Besides, it all keeps falling out. (Well that’s really only happened once, but that was more than enough, thank you very much.)

So, no Virginia, I’m not Santa Claus… but I have met him.

It was a while ago, I was young, younger than I ever recall being, but I have a memory as clear as the difference between dusk and twilight. I was young. It was late in December, I was at home in a house that no longer exists in a London that probably no longer exists either. We had a recently cut tree; it smelled like the kind of forest I’d never seen, but it was dry, and it was covered with lights and chocolate wrapped in bright foil. The tree smelled like Christmas, and it tasted like Christmas too. There were brilliant, coloured balls and inside each one, your face looked back at you from a world that was obviously poles apart. Later, there would be presents wrapped up in red green and white papers with snowmen, and jolly little elves, and reindeer, and bunnies (ok, I’m not quite sure about the bunnies) and some that would just remind us of Christmas (or of Italy if one thought in terms of flags).

So we had regular expeditions, my little sister and I, into the tree itself, we sought out things we’d not seen, and ate treats we’d never eaten. No matter how many times we went in, and regardless of how much chocolate we found, there always seemed to be more next time. We weren’t supposed to take chocolate off the tree without asking, but somehow there was a rule that said we could as long as no one was looking. Besides, the tree lived (or at least stood) in another dimension altogether, somewhere where the ordinary rules of time and space did not apply.

I was sure I could get to Lapland by crawling behind the sofa and approaching the tree from along the wall. The big light in the middle of the ceiling had to be out of course; the lounge had to be lit by the little tree lights. I could do this in my jammies, because apparently, the Lapland where Father Christmas lives is different from the one where the Lapps reside in their fur coats, hoods and cloaks. All I had to do to make the magic was believe I could. It had to be as profound a belief as a human could manage, and it might be beyond the knack of a six-year-old, but that always seemed a poor reason not to try.

I would emerge from behind the couch and into the scarcely lit world under the tree. It was like a green tunnel and the tiny lights seemed to perplex the eye, the depth was boundless and I seemed to fall, spinning upward into vague green branches. It was the magic. I could touch it and it sang in my senses, a fleeting moment and one that lingers yet. I may resemble the Jolly fellow on the outside, but there’s an explorer in the deep remembrance. There is a lot of stuff he still believes, despite all the mundane and tiresome events that have spanned the time since. He still knows where the magic is, as profound a belief as a human can manage, just at his fingertips, brushing the skin on the edge of the vague, dancing lights.

I am not Santa, but I did meet him that one time.

People also seem to ask me for presents around this time of year, and for some of you, I’m working on some fairly special things. Remember, though, you’re not supposed to go poking through the cupboards… also everything tends to take longer than we want.

Speaking of big bellies… Today I went to see my lump-doctor…

Apparently, after being off chemotherapy for seven wonderful (short) months, my oncs (Mal, Wash and Book) are back. Not quite as big as before, but plenty big enough to warrant a bit of chemical warfare. She asked me when we should restart, and I suggested that Christmas day would not be my first choice. So we (by which we mean I) start another cycle of chemo on my daughter’s twenty-first birthday in January. Oddly enough, I was diagnosed with cancer on her eighteenth birthday. She suggests we organise her presents right now, before January… she wants a season lift pass for one of the local mountains… While I’m getting chemo, she’ll be snowboarding… I’ve never been skiing or snowboarding… hmmm… She’s probably trying to distract me from more ponderous matters… She’s daddy’s little angel. :)