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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Spoiler Alert!

The following contains secrets and other undisclosed information about Christmas that has been known, upon its revelation, to cause dismay, trauma, twitches, and general malaise. Reader discretion is advised.

Last chance to leave.

You’ve been warned.

I was in fourth grade when a classmate suggested to me that Santa Claus was not real. Clearly she was delusional and crazy, but the way she phrased it was thought-provoking nonetheless.

I can’t remember what I made for dinner last night, but I remember quite clearly standing in the hallway of Fulmar Road Elementary School, getting my coat out of my locker along with another girl whose locker was next to mine, and talking about what we wanted for Christmas.

Her name was Terry, and she was a Popular Pretty Girl, and I was alternately terrified and enamored of her. She was nice to me, which was the important thing to a kid who had shown up barely two months earlier, a Catholic school transplant in a Jordache-jeans-wearing public school world.

I can’t remember why I went into the closet just now, but I remember quite clearly how she looked a little sad when she told me that she knew Santa Claus was really just your parents, but she still thought it was sweet.

I nodded, because I wasn’t about to admit I was shocked senseless by this accusation. I wasn’t going to tell Popular Pretty Girl that I knew no such thing.

I nodded, and agreed that for the sake of our parents it was important to continue to pretend that Santa was real, because they really just wanted us to be happy.

Maybe it was the way she said it, or that it was an honest conversation and not something flung at me to be spiteful. Maybe it was that Popular Pretty Girl looked sad and didn’t really hold my eyes.

I believed her.

Well, I believed that she believed her. For me, at the moment, I was more inclined to believe in a magical fat man in a red suit that lived on the North Pole and flew all over the world with reindeer every year to drop presents down chimneys while you weren’t looking, than to believe that my parents merely bought and wrapped gifts.

But the seeds of doubt were planted. So I decided to test her theory.

When I wrote my requisite letter to Santa that year, I very specifically asked for a toy that was made by the elves. Even I knew that Santa needed help from Caldor and Macy’s. Santa brought you the Play-Do set you wanted but he didn’t physically make it. Everyone knew that.

But a toy made by the elves… say, a little wooden boat or a saucy jack-in-the-box like in the Rudolph movie, that would prove Santa was real.

No toy from the elves was forthcoming. Still, elves were busy. And maybe I wasn’t specific enough.

In spite of my best efforts to stay awake and listen for reindeer hooves on the roof, in spite of my best efforts to catch my parents in the act of hiding or wrapping or setting out gifts instead of a magical fat man in a red suit, I never saw a thing.

I lived with my parents until I got married and moved out at 27, and until that day I never once caught them playing Santa. I mean, if there really is no Santa, I can tell you this much: my parents were stealth.

That is officially the only conversation I can remember having about the veracity of Santa Claus. I could never prove it one way or another. I did feel guilty for a while that I knew something my parents didn’t, but I also remember how Terry punctuated the conversation. She said that even though she no longer believed in Santa Claus, she still believed in the spirit of Santa Claus. And that was good enough for me.

Photo: come on, could you do THAT without magic?