SPOILER ALERT! This post will reveal the truth - as far as I'm concerned - regarding the existence of Santa Claus.
I started to realize that my mom and dad were actually Santa - in fact that Santa did not exist - when I was aged somewhere between four and six. I remember my brother, who I credit with teaching me to snoop, told me had to show me something in the basement. We silently, and without benefit of lights, walked into the dusty and dry cellar. We tip-toed into a corner veiled by shadows, far away from the washer and drier. Todd brought me to a generic and uninteresting white sheet, which he pulled back to reveal an enormous pile of brand new toys. We contemplated the shiny boxes and cellophane, pondering the mystery of all of these toys.
I don't remember saying a word to him then, or anytime afterwards.
What I DO remember is seeing my younger sisters each unwrap Holly Hobbie stuffed baby dolls that Christmas morning. And I remember those toys were labeled as gifts to the girls from Santa.
Sometime later, I remember a conversation that went something like this:
"But, mom, I saw those dolls in our basement?"
"Well, sometimes mommies and daddies store toys to help Santa and his elves out," she replied sensibly.
I didn't buy it. I didn't tell her I didn't buy it, but that was the beginning of the end of the Santa myth for me.
It wasn't the end of Christmas being magical for me. I have vivid recollections of crying when I received a plush version of the Camel with the Wrinkly Knees - a character from the Raggedy Ann and Andy stories by Johnny Gruelle. I cried because I was so happy that someone knew me so well (in this case, my mother) to give me this gift - when I didn't even know that I wanted it. I also cried when I received a doll I named "Angel-y". (By the way, the name I gave the Camel? Camel-y.) Angel-y was a standard pillow-sized, two-dimensional stuffed angel. I cried that time because I had torn through my gifts that Christmas morning as if a tornado were coming to take them away. The Angel, wrapped unceremoniously in a white kitchen garbage bag, had been lost in the melee. When she was found, I was firmly convinced that I had no more presents and no one loved me. Unwrapping Angel provided me with such excitement and joy at a time when I was feeling an unreasonable loss.
What does Christmas mean to me today? Exuberant joy and quiet peace. I find both energies in the lights that illuminate homes, businesses, and the overall landscape during this time of year.
When do you remember realizing there was no Santa? What does the magic of Christmas mean to you? How has this evolved over time?