My suspicions about Santa began when I was 9 years old. Wise far beyond my years — laugh if you will — I had already concluded that my parents were benders of the truth.
A kid should be able to trust his parents, especially about stuff for which there seemed to be so much evidence. But nope.
Despite evidence to support my beliefs, they never confirmed that a bloody treasure was buried in our backyard or that my youngest sister was a sea creature brought up in a deep ocean dredge.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. They lied about completely impossible things, stuff that no matter how often it was promised, failed to materialize.
“I’ll spank you until you can’t sit down” is a perfect example.
Regardless of how often it was threatened, it never occurred. Even the time when the Old Man lost his mind after I burned down an abandoned barn. No matter how heartily I was flogged, I always was able to sit afterward.
“You’ll stay in your room for the rest of the summer” was another one. Right. Grounded to my room never lasted more than two days once I found out that peeing in a corner helped get my sentence commuted.
One of the biggest parental lies was perpetrated when my dog got hit by a car, and they swore that “Elvis went to live on a farm.” They stuck to that story for nearly a year, until a neighbor let slip what actually happened.
Back to Santa. My parents insisted that Santa was real, that he lived at the North Pole, where his elves made presents, and that he wouldn’t bring me anything for Christmas unless I was good.
This made sense when I was a little kid, but by the time I turned 8, I started thinking that maybe they were playing fast and loose with the facts.
For starters, Santa always was bringing me stuff no matter how I behaved. I set off firecrackers in Sunday school — twice — and still got what I wanted for Christmas.
Second, if my Christmas presents were made at the North Pole by elves, why did the labels say, “Made in Japan” or “Mexico” or some such place?
Asking my parents these evidence-supported questions about Santa only caused them to dig in deeper. “Of course Santa is real. Didn’t he eat the cookies you left for him last year?”
Mom’s go-to answer was “Santa is the spirit of giving.” The Old Man’s was “Go ask your mother.” Since neither answer was satisfactory, I, a cop in the making, concluded to find out on my own.
On Christmas Eve 1963, I put a straight sheet of cardboard on the darkened stairs leading from the garage into the house.
Since we had no chimney, I reasoned that Santa would have to step on the cardboard when he came into the house. And he would leave actual evidence in the form of boot prints.
Our parents crammed us in bed at 9 p.m. and turned out the lights. My bedroom was right over the garage. I was just dozing off when the silence of the house was shattered.
Someone had stepped on the cardboard in the darkness, surfing it to the bottom of the garage stairs and into a pile of shovels and lawn chairs.
Voila! Proof. Santa was not only real, but he also was clumsy and cursed like a sailor. I told all my friends. Nobody believed me.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.