Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Surviving disillusionment

I was watching a video on Youtube in which someone recounted how he learned that Santa isn't real and how that moment shattered him. It made me think of my own personal Santa death. This memory seems particularly relevant to my life at this moment because I think I was about 4 years old which is the current age of my oldest son. However, I have no idea how Ben feels about Santa Claus. I don't even know if he knows what a Santa Claus is. Furthermore, I'm not convinced its necessary to perpetuate that cycle of belief and disillusionment. I want to state for the record that I'm not scarred from learning that there is no Santa nor do I feel any resentment toward my parents for the part they played in encouraging my belief. We do odd things for the sake of tradition.

This happened when my family still lived in Baker, OR. The fact that this is a very early memory means that I'm a little fuzzy on the details but I remember the basic gist. I decided that I was going to see Santa Claus. We had made a big to-do of leaving milk and cookies out for the big guy and it never occurred to me that all that fuss would be had over something fictional. Of course Santa was coming. I waited until I was certain that everyone in the house was in bed and I crept downstairs, no doubt anxiously clutching my pink nightgown with the white bunny rabbits all over it, to catch Santa in the act of leaving our Christmas loot beneath our tree. I heard the crinkle of wrapping paper and the tinkling of the little bells and various other ornaments on our tree and, holding my breath, I peeked around the corner...to find my mom and dad placing the gifts instead of Santa. I could have written this off as some sort of fluke except my dad was clearly eating the cookies we had left out and drinking the milk as well. I couldn't believe that my dad would be mean enough to steal cookies from Mr. Claus so I was forced to conclude that it was all a hoax. In the mind of a 4-year old, cookie theft is worse than lying. Just as quietly as I had been going down the stairs, I made my way back up and went to my room to crawl into my bed. We carried on the charade for several years afterwards because I never let on to my parents that I had discovered the truth. It seemed important to them that I believe, so I pretended to.

I had a similar incident with the Tooth Fairy. Actually, I'm not 100% sure if I ever believed in the Tooth Fairy to begin with and any belief I had would have surely evaporated with the Santa myth revealed. Even so, I made sure to place my newly liberated baby tooth under my pillow each time one wriggled free. The Tooth Fairy may not be real, but the money I found the next day certainly was. One night, though, I woke up from the sensation of my pillow being jostled and I blearily opened my eyes enough just in time to catch my dad retreating from my room wearing a multi-colored robe and a floppy straw hat decorated with a rainbow ribbon. That image is better than any tooth fairy. I might not perpetuate the Santa myth, but I'm partial to the idea of dressing like a crazy person to bewilder my sleepy children. I can get behind that tradition.

2 comments:

Robert said...

I had a similar experience with the Easter bunny. I remember noticing that there was a trail of that plastic Easter basket grass stuff leading from where the basket was hidden to my mom's closet. The Hardy boy in me led to some sleuthing, resulting in my finding a cache of Easter grass, plastic eggs, and other goodies buried beneath some clothing in her closet. After the discovery that my mother was the Easter bunny, the other holiday apparitions soon vanished as well. Moral of the story: My mom really should have vacuumed more often :-)

Amy said...

my parents once wrapped gifts in pillow cases because they ran out of wrapping paper. they told me that Santa Claus had asked them to help out because he had run out of wrapping paper. you would think i would have figured it out, but I still believed and was in awe that my parents got to talk to santa claus. it made perfect sense to me that he probably didn't wrap all the gifts as per the old cartoons i had seen.

i don't remember learning that he wasn't real... it just faded away. my parents still give us gifts from santa claus and they are always the frivolous gifts rather than the shoes and such that my grown poor self needs, which i think is a nice transition to an adult interpretation of the tradition