I needed to talk to my mom about something important. I was eight, and among the changes I was going through were changes in my brain – changes in the way I thought about things. The world was changing around me so quickly that it was dizzying, and I needed parental guidance to get my feet planted on some kind of solid foundation.
I was just nervous, not really sure how to word the question, or whether I wanted to know the answer at all.
Finally, one day as I was driving with my mom, I took a deep breath and just asked it:
“Is Santa real?”
I made sure my seatbelt was secure, and braced myself for impact.
She took a few moments to figure out how to proceed. Then she said, “Well, do you want to know the truth?”
“No,” I said.
She had already answered the question with her response. And the fact that I was asking shows that I really knew the answer deep down. But I still didn’t want the truth.
Ignorance is bliss and stuff.
|Best picture I could find for reenactment purposes.
You see, Christmas was a big deal to me when I was a kid. I used to literally count the days for two months or so.
I colored pictures of Santa, weeks in advance, then left them under the tree for him.
I colored them so well. I even colored on the white paper with the seldom-used white crayon, just so that he knew how well I knew his uniform.
On Christmas morning, I would think about my illustrations. I would wonder which one he liked the best, hoping that perhaps one of them was hanging on his refrigerator.
Even after learning the truth about Santa, Christmas was still more than just a day to me. It was an experience.
It was about searching for my hidden presents in every square inch of the house, then cursing my parents for either being the best gift-hiders ever or for not buying me presents that year.
It was about knowing that I would go to my Aunt’s house on Christmas Eve and see my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
It was Christmas songs playing in the car as my parents drove us home, me pressing my forehead against the window as I peered at the sky, still kinda looking for Santa.
It was about that nervous anticipation as I thought about the next morning, wondering how long it would take me to fall asleep.
It was about waking up at an inane hour, then desperately attempting to wake up my parents so that I could collect my spoils.
Finally, it was about trying to pace myself as I opened my gifts in order to make the affair last as long as possible.
Nowadays, when visiting my parents before Christmas, I sleep in the guest room. It is the same guest room where they store all of the wrapped gifts that they have bought, including the ones for me.
And that is really what it is all about. It is why Christmas, as well as life, is so different now that I am older. The presents are right out there in the open. There is no mystery.
But here’s the thing: there are still a lot of other great things. Christmas is just a different experience.
It is about sleeping in a guest room where your presents are stored, knowing that your parents still love you enough to buy you presents and also to provide a guest room for you to stay with them.
It is about knowing that I will go to my Aunt’s house on Christmas Eve and see my Grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins’ children (aka more cousins). Note that nothing changed about this one, except for (sadly) some subtractions and (wonderfully) some additions.
It is about the same Christmas songs playing in the car as my parents drive me home, me pressing my forehead against the window with a happy buzz going from my Uncle’s Coors Lights.
It is about falling right to sleep, and hoping that my parents let me sleep in on Christmas morning.
Most importantly, it is about seeing the same wonder of it all through the eyes of my nephew, cousins, and other children, as they excitedly open presents and be merry.
So if you are like me and somewhat melancholy that Christmas has become something less marvelous than what it used to be, just try to remember what is really important. I realize that this is not a new lesson, but it is still worth being said.
Merry Christmas, and Happy Whatever-You-Happen-To-Celebrate to everyone! I really appreciate all of the support that all of you give to me, simply by reading, commenting and sharing the things I write about.