Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bubble Santa

When I was five, we had a Bubble Santa.

Made of Japanese plastic, it was the Jolly Olde Elf in his red suit smiling happily. He had
one hand extended and you could put a bulb in the hand and the light would come on
when you plugged in the cord that stretched out of Santa’s back. Ours had a bubble light (the original version was shaped like an old time lantern with holly leaves on the glass on all four sides, and a two inch glass rod sticking out of the the top with the red liquid in it).

Santa was originally placed in our darkened hallway of our large home in Troy and he’d bubble away all night. 

In those days, the Martin holiday parties were held at our house and they were lavish affairs that stretched three rooms (kitchen, dining and living rooms) long.  Food and drink (especially drink) were plentiful.  Conversation was loud as was the laughter depending on how much everyone had had.  Teenagers played music (that rock and roll stuff), or watched Christmas specials right through to the Pope's Mass at midnight.  I was the youngest person in the house by far as both my brother and sister were quite a bit older than me.  So, there was too much noise to sleep and wait for presents (I had already been disabused by my sister about that Santa thing), and since I had no idea what everyone was talking about, I would wander around the house, grab a snack and eventually end up on the stairs that went up to the bedrooms.

But I wouldn't go all the up the stairs to my bedroom.  I'd sit on the steps about halfway up and watch in the dark as this piece of plastic shaped like the now discredited Santa would illuminate the entire hallway with his one light, and this liquid would bubble away serenely. And Santa would smile.  Sometimes my dog would find me and plop herself down next to me and watch the light as well, as she also hoped for a snack from the small paper plate I'd normally have.

A parent or sibling would look up now and then, ask if I was okay, and then return to their own gaiety.  I was fine.  We were fine.

And then Christmas would be over and Bubble Santa would disappear into a box, only to return in early December of the following year.  Same routine. Party. Loud. Booze. Laughter. Escape. Sit. Dog. I'm fine. And again and again.

We moved a few years later and Bubble Santa took up a post of honor near the manger scene in the living room.  I'd still find time to sit with the lights off (except maybe the tree lights) and watch him and listen to Christmas music on the stereo (Perry Como, etc).  Even during the Dark Years, Bubble Santa was there (sometimes during my mother's darkest depressions, all that there would be of Christmas was Bubble Santa). Two more moves and I am with my wife.  Sometime during the middle 80s (I'm old now and I don't remember what year) Bubble Santa disappeared.  We were in our first apartment and we searched for days, but Bubble Santa was gone.  I was bereft, depressed and teary eyed.  But then the next year he reappeared.  I have no idea what happened but I guess he needed a year off.

Now, in 2012, he still is here, fifty years later, through disease and death, breakdowns and bipolar disorder, MS, and all the other detritus of our lives, he bubbles.  He has outlasted parents, siblings, friends, pets, and nine Presidential administrations.

And those parties are done as well, or at least as far as I know.  I never cared for them, as you can probably tell.  I just wanted to get home. And watch him.  Now I just curl up with my wife, look at the tree lights and watch Bubble Santa.

He's like this:

He's been under at least 14 or 15 trees in 5 or so homes, and he is the last and longest throwback to my being a kid.  He is the Peace of the years, the quiet contemplation of time passing and remaining the same.  Wow, how Zen is that?  I knew those years with the monks would come through eventually.

We wish you peace and love during these days, and every day.  Each one is a gift, I know more now than ever. And I hope you have Bubble Santa somewhere, someplace you can turn to for quiet thought when we note the birth of a man who said it was all right to love your neighbors, to be good and kind, to show compassion to all.  Joyous Solstice.

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