Secret Santa

by Terry Barr

Ten-year old Terry Barr discovers one day just before Christmas that his little brother has found Santa's stash of toys. The secret of Santa is out now, and as Terry tries to help his mother cover the story to retain his brother's innocence, the world of secrets, conspiracies, and emotional entanglements for him only grows deeper.


“We use ritual as a mnemonic device—holiday as a ritual with meaning—and the seasons as increments of measurement.” — Craig Thompson, Blankets.


When I was six, I learned this secret: my father is Jewish.

I learned this secret not from anyone in my family, but from our neighbors down the street. The ones who drove me home from school that day in September 1962; the ones who had also called JFK a “nigger-lover.” This particular day was Rosh Hashanah, and as I climbed into the backseat of their white Ford Galaxie, my friend Stevie’s mother said in her usual half-laughing tone, “Well Buddy, your Daddy didn’t go to work today because of the Jewish holiday.”

I didn’t know what to say back, but I assume my “Oh,” covered all my feelings and supposed understanding of her remark. The six-block ride to my house blurred for me then, as I began contemplating all that I didn’t know about my Daddy.

About my family.

And when I entered my house, I learned that Mrs. Shaw was right. My father certainly wasn’t at work.

“Where is Daddy?” I asked my mother.

“Oh, he’s at temple.”

“Is Daddy a Jew?”

“Where did you hear that?”

“From the Shaws.”

“Oh ... well, yes it’s true ... your Daddy is Jewish.”

I didn’t ask any other questions at that moment. I wasn’t sure why this secret had been kept or what its revelation would come to mean about the adult world, about my family, about me.

About secret-keeping.

"Secret Santa" by Terry Barr


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Holiday - Christmas

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