Every year at this time, I remember when I found out that Santa wasn’t real. Some asshat in third grade spilled the beans on the playground. I was astounded. Then when Christmas rolled around, I discovered the Barbie outfits hidden in the back of the linen closet–where I am sure my mother had been hiding gifts for years, knowing that beseeching her children to change their own beds was a lost cause; it was truly no man’s land in there. But after that revelation on the monkey bars, I instituted a search around the house for proof that that kid was wrong. And I was crushed to find out that he was telling it like it is.
I mean, the childish trust! My parents, the liars! How they convinced me that Santa somehow found his way into our modern house with no fireplace is a mystery. But then, I believed in the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and probably the Boogie Man (although Mom never threatened me with that guy, but she just looked knowingly whenever his name was mentioned). When everyone in third grade was reeling from the truth that our parents had been duping us all these years, we were indignant. What a sham! And for Pete’s sake, WHY?
But then I became a parent. And I blithely started the whole process all over again. My husband and I went to great lengths to perpetuate the lie on our own kids. We bought special “Santa” wrapping paper. We disguised our handwriting on the gift tags (friends observed later that we were idiots—didn’t everybody know that Santa just brought ONE gift and left it unwrapped under the tree?). We talked about flying reindeer, elves, and the North Pole.
I am not sure how my kids found out we were making all this magic stuff up. But just like puberty, learning that Santa is a myth is inevitable. And it is invariably some scumbag like a kid in gym class or a nefarious babysitter who breaks the truth wide open. And it must just scar their little psyches. I know it took me a long time to get over the fact that my Dad, who hated gingerbread men, choked one down every Christmas Eve, leaving those telltale crumbs on the plate left under the tree. My Dad! The worshipper of truth, went so far as to gag down one of those cookies every single year! Of course, it also occurred to me that my parents could have told us that Santa loved a nice cold Budweiser, and we could have left one of those under the tree. But they were victims of the myth themselves!
Now I am a grandmother. And I wonder if my daughter and her husband will tell little Charlie the truth. If they will have lovely holidays with gifts that are obviously from family members. No Rudolph. No chimney shenanigans. Righteous. Truthful.
Who am I kidding? Children’s psyches need a good blast now and then. This is the reason for The Polar Express. Now let’s get on with the gingerbread baking.