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1990 - The Year Santa Died

Sometimes in movies, holiday movies, well..Christmas movies, you are privy to stories about how and when somebody stopped believing in Santa Claus. In many cases, it involves simply not receiving that one special gift that meant everything. That was all it took. It always struck me as kind of petty. I mean, it’s not as though you discovered your dead father wedged in your chimney, in full Santa Clause garb, stinking and beginning to rot. Now that would be a good reason. Thank you Chris Columbus.

(Sincerely. Thank you.)

            While my story doesn't involve any grim chimney discoveries, I present you with this: a story of true revelation, regret, and a little shame.

            The year was 1990. Winter. I was seven. There was a new kid in my class, Nick. Being the new kid can go one of three ways. 1: everybody hates you, 2: everybody loves you, 3: nobody seems to care. Nick was the coolest. Everybody wanted to be his friend. He knew about the best stuff, told the best stories, and had the coolest things. One of these things were battling 3d sculpted spinning tops. Spinjas. They were almost mystical: the way he carried them in that case, how very selective he was about when he would pull them out, and very particular about who could use them. He told stories about how they don’t even make them anymore, but sometimes you can find them if you look hard enough. I wanted these Spinjas. I wanted them bad.

(Feast your eyes...)

(Look at 'em go!)

The first thing I did when I got home that day was wear out  my mother with stories about the new kid, and his mystical Spinjas, and how much I needed to have them. But, they were very hard to get, so we had better get them right away.

If you knew my mother, you knew the inevitable words that would come out of her mouth. No matter what it was, no matter when,  my mother would simply say, maybe for: insert whichever gifty celebration was next on the calendar. True to form, she laid out her terms, “maybe for Christmas.”

            I attempted to rebut, however, as a seven year old child it is near impossible to stress the urgency of a situation such as this. As hard as I tried, I simply could not convey an argument that would convince my mother that this toy cannot wait. So rare are these, and so strong I do desire that we must run now, quickly, to procure the precious gem of the Spinja. Nothing worked. I would have to wait for Christmas.

(So close. So far)

Christmas could not come soon enough. Every day was Spinjas. Don’t forget Spinjas. Say, ma, why not pick up those Spinjas while you’re out. You know what I want? Spinjas. And thusly, I continued to wait until Christmas. And then, more bad news.

            In the time that I spent waiting for Christmas to come along, another yearly tradition popped up. Elementary school secret Santa. Everybody wanted Nick to pull their name. Every boy at least. Of course, he did not pull mine. Nick pulled Ryan, Brad pulled me, I pulled Crystal. As a boy, pulling a girls’ name is the worst. What the heck do you buy a girl?

(The perfect gift?)

After weeks of little gifts and treats, it came time for the big event. Crystal got silly string (See? I have no idea what to buy a girl). Brad got me some X-Men trading cards (not bad). And, of course, Nick gave Ryan a Spinjas set. Not only did Nick give Ryan a Spinjas set, it came complete with one of Nick’s amazing stories.

            According to Nick, he and his mom made a special trip to Toys R Us. There were no Spinjas to be found. His mother searched out an employee who informed her that they were no longer going to be carrying Spinjas, but he would check in back for any stock. He finally came back with what he said was the last set in the store, and that he technically shouldn’t sell it to her, because it was being sent back to the manufacturer. The last set in the entire store.

            That afternoon I sprung from the bus and ran home frantically to tell my mother the story. The last in the store, I said. I urged that if she hadn’t yet, she had better get out there and find some Spinjas before they were all gone.

            At this point, the desire to get Spinjas was stressing out my childhood life far beyond the capacity of a seven year old. I had to do something. No more simple words, action was needed. In a fit of desperation, in hopes to quell the stress, I hatched a plan. The next time my parents were out of the house, I would snoop. Classic Christmas snoop. Maybe if I caught a peek, if I could just confirm that they had gotten the Spinjas before it was too late, it would ease my mind.

(Just a glimpse)

Alone in the house, I began the search. It didn’t take long to find the massive cache of gifts way in the back of my parent's closet, shrouded in a giant sheet. The monstrosity was not easy to maneuver, particularly without causing the structure to be noticeably awry.

(Something like this)

Having pushed, prodded, and manipulated the mass of gifts, one thing became clear: there was not a single Spinja in the bunch. What I did find, however, was another spinning top fighting game. Not quite as fancy, no sculpted characters, no spring loaded spinners, WWF Wrestling Tops was brandished across the box. I couldn’t help but feel a wave of disappointment in the discovery. I carefully rebuilt the pile into as close a match as I could muster to its original form, and went about my normal seven year old business.

(Not Spinjas)

As Christmas grew closer, I no longer mentioned Spinjas. I tried to forget about them. I thought more about this new spinning top game. It was actually very comforting that my parents went to the trouble to find something that, to their knowledge, was very similar. I was even into WWF, at the time. This wasn’t all bad. Christmas was not ruined.

Finally, Christmas morning arrived. After the normal Christmas routine of trying to get my dad up, and waiting for him to get coffee, the gift opening was under way. I got a lot of great stuff. I know because I always got a lot of great stuff. Then came the box. To Daniel, from Santa. Santa liked to call me Daniel. The shape of the box was vaguely familiar. But, kid’s toys tend to be that way. Games in particular. I opened the box. WWF Wrestling Tops. From Santa. The game that I had, just days ago, discovered while snooping in my parents room was right in my hands, and it was from Santa.

Now, I was not completely naïve. Whispers of Santa Clause being fake, a ruse perpetrated by our own parents, had made its rounds plenty during the season. However, this was hard, “in your face, kid”, evidence.

I didn’t say anything. My mother explained that Santa must have known I had wanted spinning fighters and that they, my parents, weren’t able to find them. It struck me that instead of taking the credit, they used it to fuel the illusion and keep the magic of Christmas alive for there seven year old boy.

I felt ill. Not because of the revelation, so much, but because I felt like I had betrayed my parents and taken something away from them that they found joy in. I feel a pit of guilt in my stomach just writing this right now.

I smiled in appreciation, and said something to the affirmative. The morning continued as usual.

I played with that toy a lot that year. Maybe it was because it was fun. Maybe it was because it was representative of being “in the know” about something a lot of kids weren’t. Or, maybe it was because I knew that my parents were the ones who really put all of the thought into finding something for a kid who just wanted some spinning tops that battled, and I needed them to know that I truly appreciated the gesture. Right now, I’m feeling the latter.

It was a year or two before I finally let on that I knew the secret. Not for the sake of the gifts, but for the sake of the guilt. Even then, I didn’t tell them the real story. 


Merry Christmas, everybody!

Thanks for reading.

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Dalek227 Posted on Dec 12, 2018 at 06:13 AM

I know this article is a few years old but I had to comment. One, I was so sure the new cool kid was going to be the one to blab about Santa, as I was reading haha and two, what a low blow that he got that kid spinjas. We had like a five dollar limit for our Secret Santa LOL. I love that you were very grateful despite not getting exactly what you wanted.

Vaporman87 Posted on Jul 12, 2015 at 09:53 AM

Hopefully my kids feel the same way about my wife and I when they discover the truth. LOL

mickyarber Posted on Jul 11, 2015 at 10:43 PM

I don't remember when I first realized Santa wasn't real, but I do remember the after effect. I can remember feeling closer to my parents once I knew it was them spending hard earned cash for the things under the tree, and I think that helped me develop a deeper sense of appreciation for all kinds of things.

Fun article.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 12, 2014 at 02:26 AM

We parents can get pretty creative when necessary. LOL

comic_book_fan Posted on Dec 12, 2014 at 02:23 AM

i found out about santa when i was 6 by sneaking out and catching my oldest brother putting the present and the stocking up and he had eaten the milk and cookies.
and about 2 years before that i had an experience kind of like yours except i saw my sister packing in my present the night they bought it and when i asked about it they told me santa gave them the present while they were at the mall to put up they told me he done that to all the parents there so it would cut down on his delivery time which was completely logical to me at the time.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Dec 11, 2014 at 01:16 PM

Great, feel good story. Spinja stress, has to be the best kind.I remember well the tales of elusive toys only available in another state where friends had just visited or used to live. For that reason I always made my parents stop at a toy store when we were out of town, just in case. It is awesome that your parents tried at least.

fuschnikt Posted on Dec 11, 2014 at 02:27 AM

Dang! Thankfully I already have a set. Finally got it about four years ago. Just shy of two decades after the story.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 11, 2014 at 12:53 AM

Holy cow! Apparently Spinjas are more popular now than 1990!

vkimo Posted on Dec 11, 2014 at 12:50 AM

Fun tale man! Maybe it was better you found out firsthand alone, that way you had time to process things. Had you opened that box thinking it was Spinjas your parents would have read the disappointment right away.

Oh, and just looked on eBay. Spinjas complete set for 180.00 and a new in the box stadium for a cool 1k

SockofFleagulls Posted on Dec 10, 2014 at 09:01 PM

Great story. Can't remember how old I was when I found presents in my parent's closet (mid 80s), but I do recall finding something G.I. Joe related. Never told them about it either.

No recollection of Spinjas!

fuschnikt Posted on Dec 10, 2014 at 08:00 PM

That's fantastic, letting him be a part of Santa for his brother. I absolutely love that.
I've read that some people are actually worried about backlash along the lines of, "you lied to me and I hate you." But I find that fear to be silly. You got it right with him. We aren't lying, it's about creating something fun and special for our kids to enjoy. Well played, sir.

NLogan Posted on Dec 10, 2014 at 07:54 PM

My 9 year old is in the know about Santa this year. He wanted a really expensive gift that I can't afford right now. I didn't want him to be disappointed so I told him it probably wasn't going to happen. He immediately replies with,"No problem dad, I got it covered. I'll just ask Santa." My heart dropped into my stomach. I debated using the old, "You're lucky to have gotten anything at all with how you've been all year" that was used on me as a kid, but he is pretty good and not a trouble maker at all. I clued him in about why we give gifts and that Santa was a way for parents to give a little extra joy to their kids. I started out by telling him that Santa lives in our hearts not the north pole. I think he took it well. He then proceeded with the Xbox on down, "Was that you then yhat gave me that?" I told him I am waking him up and he has to help with the Santa duties and wrap his brother's gifts. He is excited to be in the secret club and get his share of Santa's milk and cookies.

fuschnikt Posted on Dec 10, 2014 at 07:53 PM

Ha! Yes! Nailed it. Also, looking on the internet, not the phone device, I realize that "centering" the images was proper and correct.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 10, 2014 at 07:25 PM

LOL. Yeah. I would say, at that point, that she MAY require a bit of guidance on reality.

Oh yeah... I forgot to mention that I laughed out loud (for real) when I read that caption below the WWF Spinners, "Not Spinjas".

fuschnikt Posted on Dec 10, 2014 at 07:22 PM

Thanks, man. I truly appreciate that. I now realize, however, that I should not have "centered" those pictures. My next one should be absolutely flawless. Maybe.
I, too, have been looking up the Santa thing this year. My daughter is now nine, and I wasn't sure if there was any type of protocol or anything. Best I could find was to simply let them figure it out at their own pace. I've decided to just go with that. Unless, of course, she makes it to her twenties writing letters to Santa and Looking for her elf on the shelf. Then I might clue her in.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 10, 2014 at 07:02 PM

Firstly, I have to acknowledge that your skill at creating a quality article has improved VASTLY over the course of your 3 submissions. This was a really fun and well crafted article! Well done.

Secondly, I love this story. It's starts with the premise of learning that Santa isn't real, but then slowly shifts into a frantic plea for the toy you really wanted most, with no time to spare (with them being discontinued).

Then, when the time does come to open those gifts, the idea of Santa not being real kind of comes out of nowhere. I thought to myself, "Oh yeah! I had forgotten all about that."

I don't remember when it was that I actually came to the realization that Santa was not real. I think it just happened over the course of time, slowly. My parents never actually sat me down and explained it (that I can remember). It was just "assumed" after some time that I knew, and that they knew I knew.

Dealing with this is going to be difficult, for me as a dad. But I have found some good explanations (thank you internet) that should help ease the transition from cartoony Santa dropping down chimneys, to Saint Nicholas - the man who served God by helping others (a tradition that parents help carry on).

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