Monday, December 22, 2008

Dear Santa, You can blame my brother.

I was five when I found out the truth about Santa Clause. Or rather, when I was told the truth about him.

You see, I have a hard time keeping a secret. Even as an adult the excitement surrounding a secret is almost overwhelming. I want to tell someone. I want to tell everyone whatever it is that I know.

When I was a kid? Forget it. If you had something you wanted to keep quiet then you needed to not tell me. I was the designated bean spiller in the family.

On the flip side, if you were keeping a secret from me and I knew you were I nearly exploded until I found out. As a result of this I don't like surprises if I know they're coming. If it's a genuine surprise and I know nothing until the moment the surprise is revealed I'm great, but don't tell me about it and then make me wait. That's torture.

My big brother, on the other hand, likes surprises and could take a secret to his grave. And if you spoiled a surprise for him? You were dead meat. Especially if you were the little sister.

Somehow, even though she knew all this about us, my mother still told us everything she had gotten us for Christmas. Well, I don't know if she told Josh what she got me because he probably didn't give a crap, but she definitely told me what she got him. She was an enabler for that whole "need to know" part of my personality.

So one year (my fifth year), like always, she told me some of Josh's gifts he was getting for Christmas. And, like always, I turned around and told him. I never could understand why he got so mad. If he knew what my presents were I'd have wanted him to tell me and it didn't make sense to my child mind why he didn't want to know too. But, as was normal, he got ticked and to retaliate against me he told me that awful truth that squashes childhood at Christmas.

I think my mom was more upset than I was. I don't even remember being upset. I think I was kind of surprised and shocked that my mom had lied to me about something. My straightforward, honesty-is-the-best-policy mother had withheld the truth. As far as I knew she had never told me even a little white lie, but this? This was a whopper. A fat man? With flying reindeer? Coming down the chimney? Once I really thought it over I knew how improbable it all was. And then after I got over the shock of the lies I think I was happier every Christmas. There was no sneaking around. I could go shopping with my mom every year (which I l-o-v-e-d!) and I could just go straight to the source for what I wanted. The self serving part of me was actually quite pleased.

I don't remember this ever causing a problem for me with my friends. I understood that they would find out on their own and didn't need me to spoil it for them, so I just left them alone. But the next year (in first grade) the class was writing letters to Santa to put up on a bulletin board. The teacher called us up one by one and asked what we wanted from Santa. When it was my turn I told her that I didn't believe in Santa and she should write the letter to my mother. The look on her face was as if I had just spoiled the surprise for her. That face is burned into my memory forever. When she recovered she just asked me to pretend and tell her what I wanted, so I did.

Now, as an adult, I wonder what I'll tell my own children when I have them. I have more memories of Christmas not believing than ones when I did. My memories are happy. So should I play the Santa game and risk serious childhood letdown or do I just tell the truth from the beginning? I asked Andy this the other night and he, of course, didn't have an opinion. I suppose he will when we're closer to having kids. We've got a while.

So how did you find out the awful truth? Or did I just blow the whole thing for you?