Something to believe in

Over at The Art of Getting By (a new addition to my blogroll), Janet tells of that precious, precarious time when children start to question the existence of Santa.

I remember those days — I always suspected my mom was behind it somehow, because Santa ALWAYS knew what I wanted. Which was never really much — I’ve always been sort of a loner, so I could be entertained with books and toys that didn’t require a gaggle of participants. (I hate board games to this day.) But back then, I could be pacified with images of Santa deploying a special elf to go clean out the bookstores with all of my requests.

I think it was in third grade when all of these suspicions about this magical entity wormed their way into my head, but I wanted to hold on for just another year. Then came fourth grade, when — as the designated “big kids” in the school, i.e., the oldest in elementary school — we got word that the whole Santa thing was just a farce.

I’ll never forget being in Ms. Carp’s class that holiday. (I loved that woman — I was so totally her teacher’s pet, especially after she caught me as a 9-year-old reading “The Great Gatsby” during a free period — Santa had done well by me, once again! Well, that and I had written to then-President Ronald Reagan, telling him I thought he was an asshole, and I actually got a response and a book from the Oval Office. You know how people curse you with hoping you have a child who’s just like you were? Lord, may the birth control continue working!!!)

Anyway, a couple of the popular, stuck-up bitches of my class (with whom I had been friends for about a day and a half), were teasing this kid Kevin who truly, honestly insisted there is SO a Santa Claus. They had older sisters and were thrilled to burst his bubble. And in doing so, they ruined it for the rest of us who were sort of on the fence about it anyway.

I don’t envy the position that put my teacher in. Janet’s entry touched me because she has been in that position — to take control of a class whose fundamental beliefs were shattering before her very eyes.

Ms. Carp quickly refuted the girls’ claims, telling us that it is a special time of year when all sorts of magic is possible. That we were certainly allowed to question it but the most important thing at the end of the day is to believe that magic would come to those who wanted to believe in it.

I loved her for that. We studied her so carefully, looking for signs that she wasn’t bullshitting us. And her expression gave nothing away, so we took her at face value. But that was the only year I looked for (and found) hidden presents and giftwrap. I never did it again, though — to this day, I am happy to open a gift when and only when the proper time has come.

I didn’t tell my mom what I’d done — even for as young as I was, I knew how important it was that all of her hard work be honored by my silence — at least for the time being. There was a woman whose sole joy in life was seeing her daughter’s face light up as perfect present after present was unveiled. Thank god I was smart enough back then to know that.

However, that was the year the innocence that belongs only to the very young died. I officially grew up. She left my stepfather a few months later and we moved in with my grandparents. I was happy to be rid of him, though. A lot of other bad things happened that year, too — 1984 was the year that my belief in magic gave up the ghost.

It’s taken me a long time, though, but I really do hope to see Santa Claus again. Because I know he’s out there somewhere — he’s just gotten a little bit lost along the way to my place. But I promise, I’ll let him in when he’s in the neighborhood again, because I think Ms. Carp was right — magic will only come to those who believe in it.

I still believe in you, Santa. …

One Lonely Response to Something to believe in

  1. Suburban Island :

    Merry Christmas and thanks for writing this lovely entry. I hope you have a wonderful 2006!