I was in the second grade when I unmasked Santa. I’d had my suspicions for a while: the handwriting on the gift tags, the fact that Santa used the same wrapping paper as my parents did, and I’m sure I’d heard rumblings around the playground or maybe from my older brother. But whatever evidence I brought before them, my parents stood by Santa. Coincidence, they said. Santa’s helpers, they said. Go to bed, they said.
I spent that Christmas season snooping. I finally found my proof on Christmas day, not long after I received a beautiful Barbie dream house, pre-assembled under the tree. I was probably helping clean up wrapping paper, or perhaps making a last-ditch effort to make my point, but I found the box for the Barbie dream house in the garage, and my parents could pretend no longer.
I was not angry. I did not feel betrayed; I felt proud. Proud of myself for figuring it out. And I was grateful for my Barbie dream house, whoever gave it to me.
As I prepared to have my own children, I wondered whether I’d uphold the Santa myth. I didn’t want to lie to my children. Then again, I didn’t want to burden them with knowledge they couldn’t share with their classmates. I heard a lot of young parents considering the same conundrum. When they were babies, though, it was all academic.
Have you ever noticed how people talk a lot about how children learn, but they don’t have the same conversations about adults?
Maybe learning seems more important when the mind is young and malleable. Maybe we tend to forget about our own minds and hearts when we take on the responsibility of someone else’s. Maybe we don’t realize how much we keep learning as adults or how important it is that we keep learning well.
Learning is a particular concern of mine, and not just for my children. I’m the type of person who could have happily become a professional student, and failing that, I’ve become my own teacher. I’m a student of music, literature, foreign language, art, crafts, and even business.
The other day, my son and I took a walk. He wasn’t his usual chatty self–it turned out he was coming down with a cold–in fact, he was a bit of a grump. I kept trying to start conversations but he’d shut them down. I kept trying to hold his hand but he’d yank it away. After a while, he started walking on people’s yards instead of the sidewalk.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“We’re sliced apart,” he said. “We’re sliced apart and we’re never going to heal.”
When I was a kid, we lived down the street from our local pastor. Despite some of his congregation’s hesitations about the holiday, he absolutely loved Halloween.
I don’t remember how he decorated his house or if he ever wore costumes. I don’t remember what kind of candy he passed out. I remember two things about Pastor John’s house on Halloween night: he always looked delighted to see us, and he always made us do a trick before we could get a treat.
At first, the idea of performing on his front doorstep was terrifying. Should I tell a joke or sing a song? What if I wasn’t good enough? What if he gave me a rock instead of candy like those horrible adults in It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?