Carnes: Christmas without Santa
Unless you live in a metaphorical cave (literal in some cases, I suppose), the next two weeks are considered by many to be the very best of each year.
Magical, in a sense, is the way they make me feel, and have for 48 Decembers, give or take a few for those early, too-busy-pooping-in-my-pants-for-rational-thought years.
I remember a little bit of the magic disappearing the December my older brother took it upon himself to inform his obvious nitwit of a sibling about the reality of the whole Santa situation.
It was the year of Sgt. Pepper, the Six-Day War and a $340 billion dollar national debt, yet all I knew was my Santa Bubble had burst, and the world never looked the same again.
Not necessarily any worse or any better, just not the same.
Fast forward four decades and now my own 8-year-old, the last child I will ever conceive (see Dr. Peck for more details), recently announced his personal epiphany about the Big Guy, only it wasn’t due to an older brother tipping the reality scales.
“The more I think about it Dad, it just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
“My own little Mini-Me of critical thinking!” I shouted quietly to myself, just in case he was baiting me, a trait not unlike his mother when “discussing” what make of car to purchase next.
He continued for a minute or so, not exactly asking questions, more like making statements about too many chimneys, too many houses, too many people to visit in one single night, etc. All of these skeptical thoughts appeared quickly, one right after the other, each compiling mental evidence against a childhood fantasy that had gripped him since he was old enough to tear the wrapping off a package without also sampling it as an appetizer.
Bittersweet, to say the least.
I have always told him and his brothers that one does not have to believe in magic to enjoy the magic of Christmas, but to have him reach this conclusion on his own at this young age was a pleasant surprise.
No more pretending for Mom and Dad, no more make believe. No more making sleigh trails in the snow on the back patio with the handle end of a shovel, filthy Sorel boot tracks around the tree, deciding which presents come from Santa, and finishing Christmas Eve with half a glass of milk and two or three chocolate chip cookies.
I will admit that for the last few years Santa had already evolved to the point of being supplied a small dollop of single-malt instead, but I swear that is the only yuletide influence I’ve had on the boy.
For him, this sudden enlightenment means the end of Christmastime fantasies, but when handled correctly by parents is hopefully no more traumatic than realizations about the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny.
It is a small step up the maturity ladder towards becoming a young adult, and certainly not the end of childhood.
Most of us play the role of pushing for kids to believe in fairy tales, good witches, bad witches and magical beings of all shapes and sizes during those early years of innocence. They help support the framework of morals and the basic common sense of right and wrong that we never stop trying to teach.
The allegorical tales are just part of being a kid. In some ways that’s the best part, though I can’t help but wonder what will he remember upon reaching my age. Will it be the High School Musical 2 soundtrack, the Iraq/Iran war on terror and the $10 trillion national debt?
He still wants stuff of course, only now he asks Mom and Dad directly as opposed to sitting on some stranger’s lap. He’s just as excited as ever about putting up the tree, decorating the house, buying presents for everyone, watching Christmas movies, being out of school for a few weeks and so on.
Maybe we’ll get him a teddy bear for Christmas and name it Mohammed.
Speaking of movies, he absolutely loved the Golden Compass, and questioned a news story on TV last week where some fanatical religious cult (sorry for the redundancy) was calling for a boycott of the film, actually shouting out the phrase, “Fantasy promotes atheism!”
“That doesn’t make any sense, Dad,” he said.
That’s my boy.
Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a biweekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.