Never would I have imagined having so many things cross my path, metaphorically speaking, in a single evening, as I encountered when I visited the House of Claus for dinner the other night. It was just a very lovely and comfortable dinner (also a delicious one), and it was made by Paolo and a small staff of other chefs. Paolo ate dinner with us, while the other chefs served. The food was exquisite, of course, but it was definitely the conversation that made this such an evening to remember. At least it's an evening that I will remember. It had an impact on me that would be hard to forget.
I should preface this with the note that I went to dinner after having finished my work on the email that drew me to the old Blackmail Files and that had brought the legend of Jippy so dominantly into my mind. In the days between reading the account of Santa's possible or fake children in Brazil and going to dinner at the Claus' house, I had become a bit focused on the puzzle, and I think I lost sight of the task at hand, which was to answer the email. So I returned to that email and responded. I found that letter very silly (and maybe little threatening, toward the end), but I did respond with something along the lines of "leaf blowers worldwide have been permanently priced at $59.99, which may or may not help your cause depending on what you do with that information, but it's still not what I got you for Christmas, love, Santa."
At dinner, before dinner, when I walked in to dinner...I knew that it was now very unlikely that I would ever ask Mrs. Claus about her past with regard to that rumorous information. Above the fact that it was none of my business, it was also not in my job description. Once I'd realized that, it was very easy to let go of my need to know, and to figure out the answer by my own sleuthing. And anyway I was sure that my experience at dinner would yield at least some clarity, somewhere. I didn't know how much would actually come.
Mrs. Claus told me during dinner that she had chosen me in this season's gift exchange.
"Thank you!", I said. "Thank you for the shoes, and the necklace, and the loan of the dress. And...thanks for the magazine, and the pajamas, and...the cake, on Christmas...and I think there were a few other things!" I smiled.
"You're most welcome! But, those things were not the actual gift."
I paused. I looked to her to continue.
"Your gift this season has been the gift of protection. I offered you my love, and it seems to have carried you through nicely. I dare say, you might have had some insurmountable challenges without it."
I was floored. But remembering how she had treated me at her New Year's party, I could clearly see that Mrs Claus had, in fact, offered me great love and protection. I was just unaware that it had been there or that it had aided me in any other situation. I also was a bit shocked by her direct manner -- it was as though what she had to say was something stronger than her constantly present emanation of personal honesty, and also something that I wouldn't have been able to hear without her saying it.
"Do you know why you can't tell how old I am?" she asked me.
I didn't know.
"It's because you are in love with me. But please don't be alarmed; it happens very easily when you are a protegé under the arm of anyone who loves you and is not jealous of you, or afraid."
I really didn't know how to feel or what to say at that point, but she continued, almost casually.
"But then there's [she gestured toward her husband]...people usually fall in love with Santa on the strength of their expectations. It's not a healthy love, and it tends to fall through...or even when the expectation WAS met, it tends to wear off as the novelty of the gift fades. It's a good thing Santa's only under that kind of pressure once a year...can you imagine how exhausted he'd be if people just continued to expect the world from him, day after day?"
I shook my head.
"Ahh! Assumptions!" She shook her head as well, and then asked me, "Did you notice that from the moment you read that rumor you started to obsess over it, needing to know if it was true?"
I replied, "Well, yes. But to be completely honest and accurate, I cared mostly because I was sure SOMETHING was true in it. But I didn't know what, and I still don't."
She quickly interjected, "I think that's when you started to notice me, actually!" But then she looked over at me, expecting me to continue.
"After sitting with you at the New Year's party [she smiled as I said that], I...I had to think: why was I coming to you with this question? It was that I thought the answer could be found most swiftly through you...but then I realized I was being obsessive! I was focusing on something that, although it is perhaps related, was not the actual letter I needed to answer."
Mrs. Claus was absentmindedly doodling again, this time with the tines of an unused dessert fork (she had chosen the spoon). I hoped she was still listening, and that I hadn't bored her. She said, "You know, the thing about assumptions is that the moment they are made they start their own sphere of influence. They become very real. They can make or break someone's reputation, for instance."
She went on.
"Like you, for example. If you'd made an assumption about me, particularly a judgmental one, and you'd then published that assumption on your blog...you are writing a blog, after all...you would have become the first voice announcing my new image. But whether that image is based in truth or not is something else entirely."