Christmas Blog Party: T.S. Eliot and a Scooter Edition

Santa Dies in a Scooter Accident or My T.S. Eliot Christmas

“Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation […]
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.”
--T.S. Eliot, “Journey of the Magi” (lines 21 & 22, 30-31)

The “satisfactory” feeling in the quote above reflects the mendacity the magi (wise men) felt when finding the inn where Baby Jesus lay. The moment changed them, but it was a silent moment on a silent night. Oddly, the events that change us are often inconspicuous. No bells. No whistles. No soulful guitar solos. Just the quiet acknowledgment of another spot in time.

And that mute “satisfaction” mirrors my realization of Santa’s non-existence. I can’t remember the exact age, but I remember being in a friend’s garage the day after Christmas.

“All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again” (lines 32-3)

Josh: “Nick, do you believe in Santa because I have something to show you that will change that.”
Me: No!...Well, I dunno. Maybe.
Josh: Okay, so do you remember that scooter we were using as a sled yesterday? The one Santa gave me? Well, look what I found!

My friend pulls out an empty cardboard box. The box has a picture of our scooter-turned-sled on it, a clear indication it was store bought. The receipt was even stapled to it. I’d already begun doubting Santa’s life; he was teetering on the verge of existence. But in that moment, Santa died. He died quietly and satisfactorily. Josh and I glanced at the box, looked back at each other, shrugged, turned around, and left the garage.

We, like the magi, “returned to our places” (line 40).

“Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence no doubt. I had seen birth and death” (lines 36-7)

Santa dies for everyone. We all have that “spot in time.” But that’s okay. For he is always alive for someone somewhere, reborn in children from the ashes of parental myths. That is why when discussing Santa—as when discussing poetry—you always use the present tense.

Nick blogs about his teaching experiences at nickxsavestheday. Nick met Danielle the summer of 2006 over Nabokov's Pale Fire, invited her to a book club, and the nerdfest has continued ever since.
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