Monday, December 19, 2011

The day I learned the truth about Santa Claus

Inside my memory, for some reason, is a 60 Minutes episode I watched as a third grader, about a boy around my age at the time who was going to college. He was a genius, and Walter Cronkite or whoever the hell hosts 60 Minutes couldn’t get enough of him. They ran clips of the boy walking amongst people around my current age, discussing blah blah blah with them from their blah blah blah class. Obviously a vivid memory.
The one thing I remember distinctly from the documentary, though, is Walter Cronkite or whoever the hell hosts 60 Minutes asking the boy, “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” 
The boy genius, who was in college at the time, said, “Well, I know the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, and I know the Easter Bunny isn’t real, and although my parents have not told me yet, I have deduced that of course Santa Claus is not real.” And I was all...

I was not swayed. I had a firm and steadfast acceptance of Santa Claus AND St. Nicholas,  thank you very much, according to my second grade journal.
A year later, however, on Christmas Eve, it suddenly struck me. It was like a beacon of light from heaven, except it was a bitter, cold, lifeless light that illuminated exactly what I didn’t ever want to see, that which my parents and The Flight of the Reindeer  and The Santa Clause and The Polar Express worked so fervently to keep me from realizing.
This is the day I learned the truth about Santa Claus.
And as I said in the post about my second grade journal:
When my parents told me that the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, I cried. 
I was sad when I found out that the Easter Bunny isn’t real. 
When I figured out that Santa isn’t real, I was PISSED.
Suddenly every lie from this wretched holiday was exposed. I felt like Bruce Willis at the end of The Sixth Sense, when **SPOILER ALERT FOR THE TWO PEOPLE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THE SIXTH SENSE YET** he finds out he’s dead and suddenly everything starts to make terrifying sense.  

I saw right through everyone.
My family, The Conspirators.

My older sister, The Traitor. 

The worst was when we went to church and, as per tradition, a man dressed as Santa went to Holy Communion. I was always inspired by the thought that Santa, in his busy night, came all the way to St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Holmen, Wisconsin to partake in the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, with my new understanding how this cruel world works, I was disgusted. 

We got home and lo! there were presents on the ground (which explained why my dad “had to go to the bathroom for a long time while we were waiting in the car to go to church”), two piles for me and my sister, who I now realized was playing along just for my sake. As she opened presents, I noticed her saying “Thank you, Santa!” and winking at my parents. 

So pissed.

I opened my presents with disdain, knowing it was all an elaborate joke, and that I was the only one in my family not in on it. I remember seriously considering throwing all of my new toys on the ground, stomping on them, pointing an accusatory finger at my parents, and saying, “Santa Claus isn’t real and all these toys are TAINTED WITH YOUR BETRAYAL. I'M LEAVING." Then I'd storm out and move to a place where people aren't manipulative and mean. 

But I didn’t. I just played along like a little bitch. 
The next day, my parents sat me down. 
THEM: Brian, why were you so sad last night?
ME: Because Santa isn’t real. 
THEM: [pause, glancing at each other] Yes he is, Brian.
ME: Don’t try to make me think otherwise. Santa isn’t real and I’ve been your patsy for the past 10 years. 
THEM: Do you even know what patsy means?
THEM: Okay, calm down. You’re right. He’s not real. 
ME: Whatever. I’m over it. First the Tooth Fairy, then the Easter Bunny, and now Santa? Who else isn’t real? Grandpa? You might as well break it to me now.
THEM: Grandpa’s real, Brian. You’ve seen him. 
ME: Yeah right. And that red light I saw flashing in the sky wasn’t actually a radio tower,  as would be the obvious assumption, but the shining nose of Rudolph, which you insisted it was. And all those years, you told me “Wow, Brian, the Santa whose lap you sat on this year must have been the real one.” You seem to say the same things about Grandpa. “Wow, he must be your real Grandpa, the way he looks like your dad and all...”
THEM: Okay, so we spent a lot of time trying to encourage your belief in Santa. We just wanted to keep the spirit alive. Your Grandpa, on the other hand, is totally real. We promise. 
ME: And why should I believe you, with your planting sleigh tracks in the front yard snow with 2x4’s and throwing half-eaten carrots on the roof as if they had been eaten by reindeer? Such great measures you took to keep me docile and ignorant!  Grandpa’s house is just a cardboard set, isn’t it? He’s just some dude you hired to act all grandpa-like, isn’t he? 
THEM: Do you seriously think your Grandpa isn't real? How long have you thought this?
This went on for a while, but soon I realized one can’t put spilled toothpaste of Truth back in the tube. Everything was exposed. My innocence dashed. No more fictional characters to believe in. This is probably why I doubt the existence of so many other things now. 
It's been over a decade now, and I’ve moved on. And contrary to what The Polar Express says, I can still hear bells even though I don’t believe in Santa.

Happy Holidays, faithful follower(s)!