Friday, December 19, 2014

The Year The Santa Alarm Had A Problem...

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on December 19, 2014.
By Bill Gouveia


            Every once in a while an event occurs that shakes you to the core, makes you question what you know, and threatens the life you have built.  This past weekend was one of those times, and it could possibly mean the end of an era.


            Our period of innocence may be over.  Despite my best efforts to shield my family from the cold and cruel world, cynicism continues that steady and deadly march as it tries to eventually overtake us all.


            Just this weekend, my six-year-old grandson Will (did I mention his name is William?) informed both me and his parents that he no longer believes in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest Christmas traditions of all time.  He’s so young to lose this now.


            That’s right folks – Will no longer believes in the existence of the Santa Alarm.


            For those of you unfamiliar with this great piece of American folk lore, it is something that (as far as I know) I made up.  Or at least I’m taking credit for it until someone sues me.


            The Santa Alarm is an extremely complicated device visible to only fathers and grandfathers (and perhaps great-grandfathers) who have children spending the night in their homes on Christmas Eve.  I could tell you exactly how it works, but then I’d have to…well, you know.


            I first used it when my two boys were very small.  They were so excited about getting up on Christmas morning to open presents that they could not sleep. 


I heard them plotting together upstairs in that conspiratorial whisper kids have when discussing the possible overthrow of parental authority.  I realized they could sneak down the steps when my wife and I were getting our scant few hours sleep. As a former Christmas Ninja myself, I knew the drill.


            I had already threatened them with dire consequences should they try and sneak a peek under the tree before receiving the “all clear” signal from us in the morning.  However, I could see in their eyes the belief they could pull one over on the Old Man.  I knew this was going to take more than just the usual warnings.


            So I called them together and explained how things were now out of my hands.  Santa had installed the Santa Alarm and appointed me as guardian and operator.  This is how it works:


            There is a super special and invisible beam of light about halfway down our stairway.  When set it immediately trips if anyone under the age of 18 comes down the stairs.  It cannot be avoided, or stepped around, or beaten.  When triggered, an alarm would go directly to the North Pole.


            Local elves (on standby for just such a situation) would then immediately activate the Present Puller.  This would transfer all presents within seconds to a secure location, where they would be picked up and distributed to needy – and less sneaky – children.  By the time their feet hit the living room floor, it would be all over.


            They wanted proof.  I told them there was a secret switch located in a special spot on the wall going downstairs and only my hand could set it.  I made them hide their eyes while I turned it on (they tried hard to look).  Afterwards I watched them search those walls for hours, but they never did locate it.


            It worked.  Fear is a great motivator.  Christmas morning they rushed into our room, pleading to go downstairs.  They eyed the steps like they were lined with thermonuclear devices, and looked away while I shut off the alarm.


And to my delight, my oldest has continued the use of the Santa Alarm at his home.  To this point, it has been equally effective with my oldest grandson.


But now he is in school.  He has heard stories of other kids successfully sneaking.  He thinks this is a ruse.


But he can’t be 100% sure.  I have shown him an actual alarm panel in my home, yet he remains skeptical.  This kid is a tough sell.


My own boys still tell stories of the Santa Alarm at holiday gatherings.  I’m hoping Will can be convinced for at least another year or two.  There are other grandchildren involved here.


And just how am I going to explain all this to Santa?


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist, father and grandfather.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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