Mr. Claus and Me

I know Santa Claus, which I know sounds like a tall tale …

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I do not remember the moment I learned that the many Misters and Missuses Claus that we encountered in person or saw on TV were “not real”; the fact that there was no “a-ha” moment leads me to assume that I never bought the story anyway. Maybe so, maybe not.

There is at least one photo of my sister and me in a “portrait with Santa,” and I remember the typical session: I knew, just knew, that this fellow was not Santa and I did not feel betrayed by this. I did not know why he claimed to be Santa. I knew it was a guy overheating indoors in a snowsuit for reasons related to “things grown-ups do.” It did not make much sense to me, to be a grown-up who wore a snowsuit indoors, but I did not envy adults the many things that they did, said, claimed, acted as if, and always eventually emphatically insisted made sense despite the absence of any evidence of sense.
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I Love a Parade

That time I led the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade by accident:


“Through my sheer skinniness and the single-minded determination of the utterly oblivious person that I can be, I made my way to a wooden sawhorse employed to keep people off the parade route. The line of sawhorses stretched north and south, unbroken, all stamped, “NYPD.” Of course I could move one, anyone can move a sawhorse, right, but wouldn’t that constitute me, you know, ‘starting something?'”

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Each Thanksgiving morning I experience the flutter of a memory of a moment in which my own experience of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles almost came true. Mine was going to involve accidental participation in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade between a bus and a train, however, which is a notion that even John Hughes might have rejected as far-fetched.

Despite my lifelong proximity to New York City, I do not have vast experience within the city, and I think most of my time in Manhattan has been spent on foot as I walked from either a bus or train station to my destination. And then back. The secret reason for this is I do not trust myself on subways—one must know the subway system through experience and the only way to gain that experience is … experience. The one and only time I rode the NYC subway alone, I did not know how quickly we would reach my destination, nor how briefly we would stop there, nor how long it would take to get back from Brooklyn, which was far, far past where my destination (a job interview somewhere in the Financial District) lay. That one experience led me to a decision I still stick to: walk (nowadays, with a cane, slowly; I have not been in NYC since 2015) to my destination, no matter how far.
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Upcoming: My Xenon Year

Dr. Oliver Sacks gave me a gift for my birthday some years ago: a writing prompt that I use each year for my special-ish day: Write an essay in which you equate your age with the corresponding element number on the periodic table.

Since I am a nonscientist, this seemed like an invitation to a find a metaphor in a reflection of the year past and in one’s hopes for the year to come.

Of course, Dr. Sacks did not give this present to ME; it was in a July 2015 New York Times essay titled, “My Periodic Table.” (Link; subscription required.) One of his final essays (he died in August that year at age 82), it was a gift for everyone:
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