A story that brings a smile, or a fact that brings a tear?
My teacher was speechless and I was in shock. I was in the first grade. It was the last day of class before the Christmas holidays. Everyone was getting their jackets and saying good-bye for the vacation. I was telling my teacher what I had asked Santa for Christmas when my classmate came up behind us and dropped this bombshell right into the middle of our conversation, crushing forever my world of childhood wonder.
Children have many wonderful capacities. One of these is the capacity to believe in benevolent magical beings. From a man dressed in red flying around the world delivering presents in one night, or a rabbit that hides candy eggs, or a fairy who comes into their room while they sleep to exchange their abandoned teeth for money—it doesn’t faze them.
But how can we—those in whom this capacity has long since staled and soured into cynicism or spite—how can we guide them into the “grown-up” world without crushing this beautiful open-mindedness and ability to believe in the extraordinary?
I didn’t want to believe what she had said, so instead of tears the first thing I felt was anger. She must be lying to me because everyone knows that Santa is real, right. I was in a daze as I put on my winter gear. I didn’t want to cry in front of anyone and I didn’t understand why anyone would lie about something so important. As I left the classroom my teacher gave me a hug goodbye and I couldn’t take it anymore. I left and walked home crying the entire way. I went straight to my mom who was sitting in our computer room and asked her point blank if Santa was real.
Looking back, this moment will forever break my heart. A mother, my mother not wanting to lie to me, had to tell her six year old daughter that no, Santa wasn’t exactly real. She knew something was wrong instantly as I came up to her sobbing and incoherent. When the words did finally come out of my mouth, a melancholy look came over her and she explained to me the terrible truth that mom and dad were Santa.
To make matters even worse, I was logical kid. After a couple seconds of intense sobbing I proceeded to ask, “What about the Easter Bunny?” I am sure this is the moment my mom knew that everything was going to come up now.
“No, honey, the Easter bunny is me and daddy too.” This is when my mom started to cry right along with me, and I started to ask my last question.
“Are you the Tooth Fairy, too?”
In one day, within a couple hours my entire child-sized world of wonder came crashing down. All I could do was cry and hold onto my mom, who was crying right along with me.
When I was finally put together enough to listen to my mom she said something so beautiful I will never forget it. “Santa might not be a real person, but he is real and he will always be in our hearts.” And that is what I choose to believe.
So someday when I have children of my own I will let them believe in everything for as long as they choose. And when the day comes that they come to me and ask me if Santa is real I will cry with them, and hug them, and tell them exactly what my mom told me.