I Legitmately Know the Real Santa

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There has been a lot of questioning about the legitimacy of Santa in our house. It started last year. We tracked him on the Eve and searched the internet for “actual footage” of Rudolph. Our son was only four years old and I thought we had more time. When I discussed this with other families, I got a variety of responses. Some shrugged it off and said they don’t do the Santa thing because they don’t like lying to their children or the patriarchy of it. There were the families that recommended all the ways I could prove his existence. Then there were the parental’s that firmly declared a halt to playdates with our son for fear he would expose their children to this curiosity. “The threat of Santa is how we get through the season.”

I get it. I do. I understand that the idea of sitting on a strange man’s knee telling him what a good girl or boy they’ve been in exchange for gifts can be jarring. I see this and don’t dismiss it. I also know that Christmas is not about Santa on a religious note, and frankly, he tends to overshadow the real man of the hour anyway. Woman of the hour too. I mean, Mary rode on a donkey for five days—pregnant! Way more impressive than a fat guy flying in a sleigh for a day. Am I right?

However, to me, it wasn’t about greed and spoils. The Santa I grew up with lived in the small town of Bristol, Rhode Island. He goes by Gerry.

Mickie and Gerry were friends of the family for as far back as I can remember. Always involved in the community and often seen breakfasting at the King Phillip Inn on Sundays. I remember my parents confiding in me the big secret—they were the real Mr. and Mrs. Claus. “Maryellen, you can’t tell anyone.” I nodded, and my world spun faster. I. Knew. Santa. Mind. Blown.

Their license plate said “Ho Ho Ho,” and they were never skimpy with candy canes. The beard? Oh, it was real alright! As was their generosity. Booked from November to January, morning until night, they didn’t accept payment for their visits, only donations to a charity.

I usually knew when they were coming over. The excitement was apparent by children and adults alike. Christmas carols playing and candles lit, I’d wait. Anticipation consumed me. I got butterflies as soon as I heard the bells. They had this way of entering. A subtle shaking of jingle bells before making their entrance. Not too loud or over the top. No annoyingly fake ho, ho, ho-ing. Rather than overwhelming energy, they were calm and mystical. The air seemed to sparkle around them. Santa was soft-spoken and understated. Still, I could be shy around him. Luckily, Mrs. Claus took the reigns and steered me in the right direction. She did most of the talking with a kind smile and lots of questions. The elves definitely answered to her; that much was clear. Santa, too, no doubt.

Some might say that knowing Mickie and Gerry in real life should have ruined the experience for me. Quite the opposite. It was never Mickie and Gerry playing Mr. and Mrs. Claus. No, t’was Mr. and Mrs. Claus that played Mickie and Gerry. Or so it seemed. Seeing them out and about town or talking with them at family gatherings, Gerry had the same twinkle in his eye wearing jeans and a sweater that he did in his fur-trimmed, red suit. Mickie was as sassy, sweet and in charge as when she wielded sugary treats.

The older I got, the more I had the privilege of getting to know them. You know, the undercover them. They are Jewish and frequented the restaurant where I worked. Whenever the Rabbi joined, Mickie would whisper, “Don’t tell him I order the pork.” Naughty Mrs. Claus! Girl, I got you.

The restaurant was below the 2nd Story Theatre. Most diners ate before the play, so the joint was empty for the show’s run time. In December, Mickie and Gerry… ahem… Mr. and Mrs. Claus would sneak in the side door between gigs, ringing their signature bells and help themselves to a full meal. Well into my twenties, I still got butterflies. It had nothing to do with gifts. Obviously, I knew who was supplying those long, long ago. But I still believed. I believed in them what they were doing. The joy they were spreading, and the magic of Christmas.

That is what Santa represents to me, and why my heart aches as my son heads down the road to not believing. I appreciate and value his curiosity, and will stop myself from plotting drastic action to prove otherwise, but for now I stand by my statement. Yes, Francis, there is a Santa Claus. His name is Gerry.

Maryellen Brito


I am an actor in New York City, currently cast in my most fulfilling role to date - mom! When I’m not chasing my son around the playground, I’m busy writing, cooking and trying to remember what I went upstairs for. 

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