. . . and what, for me, we can really count on.
"We lived in an efficiency at the Silver Sands Motel in Cocoa Beach the winter I was eight as we waited for our cement-block tract house to be built. At the motel entrance, a full-size cement dolphin rose continually out of the waves, the spotlight at night making shadows on the cement foam. My father would slowly drive his Chevy on the left side of the horseshoe-shaped patio court in the center to stop in front of our unit. Dim lights illuminated the walkway, and the ceaseless sound of surf, louder at high tide, more faraway at low, surrounded us. Next door lived a boy named Robin. I had never heard of a boy named Robin before, but he seemed intelligent, I thought, and his family had just moved there from New York, waiting for their cement-block tract house.
It was at the Silver Sands my mother admitted there was no Santa Claus. Robin and I had been talking about Santa’s existence, sitting on the rusting seats of the creaky motel swing set. Later when I was flipping through the toy section of the shiny Sears & Roebuck Christmas edition catalog, I started to wonder why there were price tags listed for all these toys if Santa Claus made them in his workshop and was going to bring them. I had already started to suspect that some things didn’t fit with the Santa Claus story, like the part about coming down the chimney since I didn’t see any chimneys at the motel or anywhere else in Cocoa Beach. And I’d heard rumors on the playground. I posed the question to my mother.
“That’s because mommy and daddy are really Santa Claus,” she said gently. “We buy all the toys and put them under the tree for you and Ricky. All the parents do. There is no real Santa Claus, honey.”
I felt a sick rush in my stomach. “That’s not really true,” I said in my know-it-all way. “You’re just saying that.”
“Really. It is,” she said flatly.
Why did I ask her that question? I scolded myself. Although I wanted her to answer, I didn’t really want to know, not yet, anyway. I ran out the jalousie-windowed front door and climbed onto the sea wall that separated the sand-ridden patio from the beach below. I swung my legs, my heels banging against the sea wall as I watched the winter-sized waves rolling in endlessly.
The waves seemed unconcerned about Santa Claus or any other human matter. There really is a Santa Claus, I told myself, trying to make time go backwards. But the longer I sat, I knew there was no going back. I could see the indifference of the waves to my small plight, and this somehow comforted me. They just carried on day after day, year after year, for eons."
(Excerpt from "Launched" in "Hullabaloo on the Space Coast: A Memoir of Place," copyright 2012 by Linda Buckmaster._