It had been years since I stopped believing in Santa, but, at age 10, I was still going through some of the motions. In particular, I kept the tradition of leaving out the cookies and milk. I found it kind of funny to wake each Christmas morning, post-Santa naivete, to find the crumbly-crumbs on the plate and the crusty milk residue clinging to the empty glass.
Of course I knew the big-man wasn't responsible for the consumption, but I never really continued the thought any further. It wasn't Santie Claus, for sure, but anyone else in the world was suspect.
However, the Christmas morning of 1994 left me blinking confusedly at a full glass of 2% and 4 utterly untouched chocolate chip cookies. My recently-single mother, sleepily emerging from her bedroom, had no good excuse as to why the foodstuffs stayed the course into daylight.
I would be in err to say that the lingering stale cookies and warm milk ruined my Christmas. Sure, I tore the gift wrapping and grinned ecstatic as any 10 year-old boy at finding the hottest Sega Genesis game in my sweaty paw. Still, I couldn't help but feel that something had irrevocably changed, that a corner had been turned and faded hazily into the distance.
Years later, I would come to the realization that my parents marriage was that which had changed my Christmas. That previous June, they had separated, eventually to be divorced, and my dad had not been there that first Christmas of their separation, 1994. It had been my dad that had so diligently obliged to consuming Santa's cookies and milk. My mom failed to realize his slight-but-significant role in my Christmas enjoyment, and so my charity to Santa/dad remained unreceived.
It was just a small alteration of my self-indulgent, pre-adolescent Christmas mythology, but one directly resultant of my folks splitting. It took years and years to digest the BIG changes that accompanied their divorce. Yet, I still come to realize these little things that happened to me in the early days of the parental rift.
Following that December morning of '94, I never left Santa cookies again.