By Sallie W. Boyles

Was Santa part of your young life?

What were you told about the jolly, North Pole resident? Did you believe the story? If so, for how long?

Some Santa Magic

My first and last recollection of a magical Santa experience dates to when I was four. For several weeks, my parents had been working overtime in their retail store. Therefore, waking up on Christmas morning to the realization they would both be spending the day with my two sisters and me—and not racing off to work—was a big deal. Giddy over having them at home, I learned the fun was just beginning.

Instead of scurrying to the kitchen for breakfast, my six-year-old sister and I followed my cheerful parents and our teen sister, who was in on the act, to the den. Apparently, Santa had left some presents for us. Indeed, unwrapped toys were strewn across the room, leaving the impression he’d come and gone according to legend: lickety-split.

The Skinny

One year later, at the ripe old age of five, I learned the cold, hard truth. My more worldly sister, about to turn seven, bluntly broke the news: “Santa isn’t real. The toys come from our parents.”

Gasping, as if smacked in the face, I ran to my mother. Why would my sister tell me such a mean thing? My mother calmed me down, saying, “Santa is real. Don’t pay any attention to her.”

It was too late. I knew. Mary Poppins wasn’t real, and neither was Santa.

For a day or two, I pretended to believe. Ultimately, I couldn’t fool myself. When I confronted my mother, she affirmed what I already knew. Rather than letting me wallow in disappointment, she pointed out how fortunate we were to have loving parents who worked long hours to give us so much. Bringing my sister into the discussion, she also warned us not to spoil Santa for any of our friends.

Initially, the latter seemed unfair. If we knew the truth, why should they get to live in fantasy land?

Before long, my perspective changed. I not only preferred being in the know but felt superior to kids who lacked my discernment. I further lost patience for boys and girls past the age of seven who still believed. How could they be so naïve?

My investigative nature compelled me to question why some older kids continued to believe. While not directly sharing the skinny on Santa, I’d bring up the topic. A few, in turn, divulged they knew their parents were Santa’s elves, but they had good reasons to feign ignorance.

For one thing, having big shoes to fill, parents went above and beyond to provide a Santa-worthy bounty. For another, their moms and dads would be terribly sad to learn how much their little ones had grown up. Regarding the latter excuse, the con artists didn’t fool me; holding onto Santa was good for them.

The obstinate deniers of reality were more annoying to me. “Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy, too?” I couldn’t refrain from asking.

Although a realist, I continued to love Santa, Mary Poppins, the Tooth Fairy, and countless other enchanting characters I encountered in books and on film. At the same time, I noted that individuals were unique in how they dealt with difficult, hard-hitting facts. Complicating matters, people could be more (or less) receptive to certain types of information for many reasons, such as the degree to which the intel impacted them. If Santa remained a fixture in their lives, then so what. He didn’t need to be real.

Likewise, I realized, people’s motivations for spreading news varied. Some valued the attention and power. Others felt responsible for communicating what they deemed essential knowledge. Many, in contrast, were so reluctant to inflict pain or stir up controversy that they stayed quiet even when their silence was harmful. The example I had for that was a twelve-year-old boy who ran home crying from the playground after being mocked by his peers for specifying what “Santa” had given him.

The Bright Side

The truth can be painful. Not even Santa guarantees goodies for every boy and girl all the time. Coal in the stocking is always a possibility. When that’s the case, examining any dark, heavy chunks of reality for what they are can spark enlightened changes in attitude and behavior towards a better life.

My best to you,

Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady

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