I remember when I found out that Santa isn’t real. I also remember when I pretended to find out that Santa isn’t real.
I was around 7 or 8 and extremely sneaky. My mother always hid presents in her closet, and my brothers and I (actually, mostly just me, but I would convince them to get in on it) would always find them to peek at what we’d be getting. But this particular year, she hid them in a little corner of her room under a blanket and in between some furniture. It took my second grade brain a small while to find the stash, but when I did, I was extremely excited. Lots of Barbies and Legos and clothes, but one particular gift stood out: a crocheted hot air balloon decoration to hang above a bed. The tag read, “To: Sam, Lots of love: Mom & Dad,” just as I would’ve expected, so I grinned at my newfound knowledge and left.
On Christmas morning, I sprinted downstairs to unwrap my presents. Out came the Barbies and the Legos and the clothing once again, but then I took out the hot air balloon. In my excitement, I nearly missed the tag: “To: Sam, From: Santa.”
Well, first of all, my parents obviously wanted to make sure I noticed Santa’s platonic, unemotional relationship with me. But second, I was slightly outraged at their ongoing lies. Did they steal the presents from Santa and rewrite the tags to their credit? Was Santa just helping my parents out? Eventually, my naivety left and I realized, of course, that Santa isn’t real.
Fast forward a few months: I am at my aunt’s house for Easter weekend. It was around 11pm and I was in bed upstairs, listening to my mother and aunt chatter below. I had not yet revealed my knowledge of the Santa falsity; instead, I was too consumed with vindictive thoughts of revenge. Well, not revenge, per se; I wasn’t about to turn Easter all Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. I was a little brat, not a sociopath. I was simply a tad depressed about my parents’ deceit, so I vowed to mess with their heads just a teensy bit.
I crept down the stairs slowly and quietly in my pajamas. I then jumped into the living room wherein the two women hid jellybeans and assembled Easter baskets and yelled, “MOM?”
They spun around and froze. My mother gasped, “Oh, oh no, I’m so sorry you had to find out this way!”
“And…and…and SANTA?” I cried.
“…Yes,” she whispered.
“YOU LIED TO ME,” I dramatically yelled, and ran back up the stairs as angrily as I possibly could manage at approximately 68 lbs.
I remained mad for, oh, six hours until the next morning when I remembered that the world of chocolate and gelatin and marshmallows I enjoyed was because of my mother, and that made her instantly forgiven. I realized she wasn’t doing it to lie to me or make me feel stupid for having believed in something that wasn’t real; she was just trying to make my childhood more awesome. And that was absolutely wonderful of her to do. In case you’re wondering, I told her I had feigned my shock and she forgave me.
So, yes, Santa isn’t real. I know, it’s terrible, but growing up is terrible! Well actually, growing up isn’t really all that terrible…but finding out a jolly old man with a big white beard does not annually break into your home via the world’s filthiest route to binge eat and drop off gifts? Oh, and it’s secretly just been your parents lying to you, eating the cookies and simply mislabeling gifts? Obviously, the whole concept stems from an incredibly loving place, but the perceived betrayal can be a little bit devastating to many children. But guess what? That shit’s part of life: learning to deal with the beauty and disappointment of a good lie.
Before my first kiss, I had imagined that it would be romantic and heart stopping and would be the best I would ever experience. This did not happen. His was Justin and he had braces. We both had braces, in fact, and I quickly learned that “French kiss” was a euphemism for middle schoolers to attempt mutual tonsillectomies using exclusively tongues as tools. Eventually, I found a good kisser (three years later) and all was wonderful, or at least slobber-free.
Before I fell in love for the first time, I was under the impression I had been in love several times already with various boys (I was 16 at the time), including some I had had lengthy “relationships” with (i.e. a year of holding hands and groping). But then I met somebody who, though he was neither my first boyfriend nor the person I lost my virginity to, completely occupied my heart for, oh, 6+ years (though it epitomized “on and off”). I am 23; do the math. I evolved to realize love didn’t necessarily have to be some consistently — or even frequently — amazing feeling, nor did it have to be . But you know what? I’m glad I had believed it would be like a fairytale; otherwise, I doubt I ever would’ve gone for it, and that would have been a shame. A safe, dull shame.
The first time I was cheated on on a regular basis by my (entirely different than the one above) ex, I had — up until that point — believed that people could change, even if they didn’t truly want to, as long as they cared for another person enough. But lie after lie, no matter how many tears shed or arguments settled or people, including him, continuously insisting that he’d “be able to do it this time…this time seems different,” it never changed anything. Every two weeks, another untruth would be revealed; another call, another kiss, another confession. And still, I couldn’t help but be mentally grateful for those who tried to help me believe in his ability to alter himself; they didn’t want to betray me by any means. They simply wished the best to be true, so I wouldn’t wind up getting hurt again. Good intentions plus white lies, that was all, and that was appreciated.
We don’t ever really want to find out that our big dreams are false and that our big dream people are even falser. It’s impossible to find a concept or person who is simple and easy and will never waiver in truth. But we can’t blame those who wish to protect us from the facts, no matter how outlandish and far-fetched the coverup stories really are. Whether it’s your mother telling you Santa exists or, ten years later, telling you that true love conquers all, keep in mind that the intentions were good and that the motivations were seemingly necessary, at the time.