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DEANSPEAK
Christmas 2007
from Paul Dini

Oh man, it's been what? Two years since I last updated here? Shameful. My deepest apologies to the five or six of you who still check in here regularly at JB.com. Your patience is about to be rewarded with new stories, new comics and new content this holiday season and throughout the coming year.

If you read my more frequent Livejournal postings at kingofbreakfast.livejournal.com you know of my day to day ramblings. But I still like posting special Jingle-only pieces here, especially at Christmastime. So first up is a fond tribute to a certain toy I wanted for Christmas way back in 1962. Also new for this update, a special Jingle Belle comic strip by the great Dave Alvarez. There is no Jingle Belle comic book this Christmas, but Dave and I will be doing regular strips starring Jing and the North Pole gang throughout the winter. Enjoy!

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MY CHRISTMAS STORY

Despite all the classic stories, all the animated specials, and everything parents say about Santa Claus, kids to a great degree, form a lot of their theories about the jolly old elf from their own imaginations.

For example, when I was five, I had the idea that no adult outside of Santa himself (or one of his certified reps) could be privy to a hopeful child's Christmas wish. Clearly I had mixed up the rules of a birthday wish much the same way Linus mixed up characteristics of Kris Kringle with the Great Pumpkin, and yet nothing could shake me from this erroneous but passionately held belief. Thus it was that I announced that I would tell my wish only to Santa Claus or his authorized representative at Boston's downtown Jordan Marsh store.

Even at five I had figured out the men in the department stores and street corners were not the real Santa Claus but his helpers and stand-ins. The way I reasoned it, they noted the wishes of each child and later phoned them in to Santa Central at the North Pole. When you are five, such rationalizations make perfect sense, especially as you know there is no way on Earth the real Santa can be in all those places at once.

Anyway, there I stood with my mother at Jordan's Enchanted Village dutifully waiting my turn to give my holiday wish to the minion of the Big Man. At the appointed time I took my place on the lap and told the man with the beard my wish for Xmas 1962 – a Louis Marx Dino The Dinosaur with Fred Flintstone on his back.

To my young eyes, there was no finer toy. Just as Ralphie Parker had his Red Ryder B.B. Gun, I had my Dino the Dinosaur. Never mind that it was completely incongruous with Dino's established role as family pet on THE FLINTSTONES series, it was big, it was blue, it was battery-operated and I loved it in the wild irrational way only a kid can love a plush-covered piece of gaudy plastic and tin. The toy itself was an impressive nine inches high by twenty-two inches long, but the TV ads made it look actual dinosaur-size. Many a night I dreamed I was riding atop my very own Dino as it playfully rampaged through the streets of Hanna-Barberaland, trampling friend, foe and Flintstone alike beneath his thudding D battery-powered feet.

While waiting to see Santa, my mother plied me with questions about what I would ask Santa for. I told her I had it soundly committed to memory. “But don't you want to tell me, too?” She nodded. I said nothing, certain that if I did, any chance I had of obtaining the greatest Christmas present ever would vanish faster than Frosty on a sunny morning. Came the appointed moment, I took my place on Santa's helper's lap. We went through the usual Yuletide dance, he asking if I had been a good boy, helped my parents, was nice to my little brother, and so on. I answered yes to all, figuring I had been more or less pretty good, especially with us all now laughing about my experiment that May to see if the ingestion of Popeye-sized helpings of spinach would allow me to knock another child through our ceiling in a perfect outline of his body (it didn't, he just sat there and cried – most disillusioning). I told the helper my name, where I lived, and instructed him that Santa could bring my Dino the Dinosaur anytime after I went to bed on the 24th.

Rejoining my mother, she asked if Santa said he was going to bring me my present. “He said there's a good chance.” I replied. “And what was it you wanted again?” Mom asked. “Oh, he knows.” I said, smiling slyly as we passed a display of the Dino toys.

Not one to be outsmarted by a five year old, my mother concocted an alternate scheme. A day later she suggested that I write Santa a letter telling him what I wanted. I told her I did not see the point as I had already given my request to his helper and I did not wish to be perceived as one of the pushy kids. Mom assured me that the Kringle would not think me pushy, indeed, it would go down as a positive mark in his book that I followed up with a personal written request. Seeing the logic in this, I took crayon and loose leaf paper in hand and set down the following:

To: The Honorable Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, AKA St. Nicholas, AKA Kris Kringle, AKA Father Christmas, AKA Santa Claus

North Pole, Alaska

Dear Mr. Claus,

Pursuant to the conversation held this Friday last, December 7th, 1962 between myself and your representative stationed at the downtown Boston Jordan Marsh at approximately 11:35 AM, I would like to reiterate my desire for the large battery-operated Dino the Dinosaur.

With many thanks and fond wishes for you and your wife this Christmas, I remain yours,

Pecos Paul McClaran Dini
Mt. Vernon Ave.
Needham, Mass.

I thought that pretty much covered it. Not wanting to trouble my mother any further in the matter, I fished a stamp out of her handbag, applied it to the envelope, walked to the corner mailbox and deposited it in the slot. I thought I had handled the assignment in an unusually grown-up manner and could not understand my mother's groans of frustration when I told her I sent the letter myself.

Desperate and now with a mere three days to Christmas, my parents did what any parents would do in a similar situation --- they forced the information out of my younger brother. You remember I said the wish only applied to any adult other than Santa knowing my wish. Around the kindergarten I talked of nothing else but the Dino the Dinosaur toy (pretty much every kid wanted one that year) and my brother R.B. was actually tired about hearing me going on about it. Thus Mom and Dad knew R.B. would talk if suitably cajoled/threatened. To his credit, R.B. put up a good fight, first claiming ignorance, then defiantly saying he'd submit to torture first, then, under our parents' withering glares, dissolving into tears, saying between sobs that I would never get what I wanted if he told. Our folks said it was okay and wormed the truth out of him.

It was all so unnecessary. My faith in Santa was absolute and I knew the Big Man would not fail me. Sure enough, on Christmas Eve, R.B. dashed into my bedroom to wake me with delighted shrieks, stinging punches and the breathless news that Santa Claus, the real, genuine living and breathing St. Nick was in our living room. Best of all, he had brought my dinosaur! Trampling R.B. in my hurry to get to the stairs, I paused on the landing to see my baby brother had spoken the truth. There stood Mom in the living room, sliming and happy, and next to her stood Santa, in all his red-furred and white bearded glory. And yes, there just barely visible in the profusion of colorfully-wrapped boxes behind him, stood my dinosaur, a red ribbon tied around his neck. Santa laughed and wished my brother and me a Merry Christmas. Then suddenly a shadow of doubt flickered through my mind. There was Mom and there was Santa, but where was Dad? Could some of those nasty rumors I had heard around the playground be true? I glanced at Santa's boots, the sure-fire way of telling a fake. If he was wearing black plastic boot toppers, than he was a phony. Every kid knew that. But no, they were the genuine article, stout, clunky and fur-trimmed. There were even sooty wet footprints on the carpet, showing Santa's trek from the fireplace to the tree. All very convincing, except for the absence of our father. Even real boots couldn't disguise that. The shadow lifted a second later as Dad entered from the kitchen, carrying a tray laden with cocktails, snacks, a pack of cigarettes and a couple of cigars. “You kids get to bed!” He sternly ordered. “Mom and I are going to talk to Santa.” The evening had suddenly taken an unexpectedly adult twist. R.B. and I ran back to my room, more convinced than ever in the existence of Santa. After all, smoking, drinking and talking business were very real adult things. My Dad did it with his friends and relatives in our house all the time. “The way I see it is this,” I told R.B. “Santa is real, but he doesn't give the presents away. Dad probably has to work out a price with him and then give him a check. Think about it. It's the only way the whole system makes any economic sense.” That rationale worked for us and we drifted back to sleep only slightly disappointed that our folks had to pay for our gifts but happy in the knowledge that Santa was just as real as the guy who came around in a truck selling lobsters to our Grandfather's sea grill.

Since that night my faith in Santa Claus and the American system of free enterprise has remained unshakable. One Christmas a few decades later I did hear my Dad admit after a hot Tom and Jerry or two that he spent several frantic days before Christmas Eve '62 driving the length and breadth of Massachusetts looking for a Dino the Dinosaur, finally finding the last one in a drug store in Worcester, but I figured it was just the Bacardi talking. There was even some communist propaganda circulating through the Dini family that it was our Uncle Dick who played Santa that night and the business deal he was discussing with Dad was nothing more than two brothers sharing Christmas cocktails and cigars. I have it on the best authority that was the same Christmas Uncle Dick was snowed in on the Texas Panhandle, thus rendering that rumor null and void.

I have since accepted that telling a Christmas wish to anyone but Santa will not negate it. Indeed, Christmas wishes should be spoken aloud and often, for we never know when some kind soul will overhear them and take it upon their selves to grant one. And it does us all some good to fill in for Santa every now and then.

As for the Big Man himself, do I still believe that he exists, especially to share the occasional cigar and Manhattan with good-humored parents who make him welcome?

Oh, hell yes.

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