When I was as small a child as I can remember ever being, well before I understood Christmas to be the stressful holiday it seems to have become for adult people, the days leading up to the Big Event filled me with one overriding fear. It wasnt that Santa might forget me; that had never happened. Hed had my beggin letter for the better part of a month by then; there wasnt much more I could do to swing the outcome one way or another.
It didnt have anything to do with the various transgressions Id committed over the course of the year either. I knew I wasnt an angel but I had friends who were a lot worse than I was and their behaviour didnt seem to jeopardize their annual booty count. I may have had the usual number of fights with my brother and sister but I wasnt a potato-stuffed-in-the-neighbours-tailpipe kind of kid. At least I wouldnt be for a few more years.
My biggest fear was this: our house didnt have a chimney. No hearth, no fireplace, no chimney to speak of, unless Santa was dumb enough to slide down that little pipe that came up from our furnace in which case wed all be eating barbecued elf the next day instead of turkey. This worried me tremendously. I was tortured by images of Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen and Rudolf prancing and pawing up on our roof while Santa, looking puzzled at not finding a chimney, shrugged his shoulders, twinkled his eyes and said, "No chimney? Screw em. On Dasher... etc."
Clement Clarke Moores poem, A Visit From Saint Nicholas , very precisely spelled out the mechanics of how things were supposed to work in the nighttime hours of December 24th. By the time I was ready for bed, I figured Id already pissed Santa off because my stocking wasnt hung by the chimney with care. My stocking was laying on the couch or taped to the wall. Even then I understood Santa was a very, very busy guy. He wasnt going to want to have to spend extra time at my house just because I wasnt holding up my end of the bargain. He had a schedule to keep and it didnt make it any easier if some wanker didnt play by the rules. Stockings belonged on chimneys. What was there to argue about?
Of course, exactly where my stocking was really wasnt the most pressing issue keeping me from falling asleep, a condition my parents assured me was a prerequisite for any Santa action to take place. Santa still had to find a way into our house. Mr. Moore was very clear on this point. "... down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound ." No chimney, no Santa. Capiche?