Prepare yourself…

As a child, I never believed in Santa Claus. Ever. Or the Easter Bunny. Or the Tooth Fairy. It’s sad, but true. This is what happens when you have a sister seven years older than you.

I love my sister. She’s been a significant presence in my life. She helped me kick my thumb-sucking habit. That was huge. She also taught me how to be brave; many, many times she forced me to play mercy with her. Many, many times I lost. Eventually I learned to cry only on the inside – Mila fed off fear – yet I never harbored any ill will toward her. It was just my sister’s way of spending quality time with me.

However, she pretty much ruined my belief in the Big Three. As I was just beginning to walk, Mila was picking fights with the neighborhood kids… and winning them. My sister has always been a no-nonsense, street-smart kind of gal, so I really never stood a chance. No way was she going to humor my parents’ attempts to engage me with stories of old Saint Nick coming down the fireplace to leave presents under the tree. Nor would she remain silent as I was encouraged to lose that wiggly front tooth in order to magically find a dollar under my pillow.

Though some may mourn this supposed loss of childhood, I’m not too torn up about it. How can you grieve for something you never had? Plus, my sister found other ways to make me appreciate Christmas. Usually they revolved around me begging her not to steam open our gifts before we were allowed to open them. Knowing there wasn’t a Santa Claus was one thing. Knowing the contents of all the boxes under the tree was quite another. Mila had already killed the magic of Christmas for me, but it’d be nice if I could at least enjoy a little bit of its mystery. Throw a baby sister a bone.

Yet it was only until I almost ruined someone else’s Christmas that I fully understood the power of my sister’s diabolical mind. I was five years old. It was like any other December afternoon; I had gone over to my cousins’ house to play for a while. Our trio usually got along smashingly, but for some reason Jen and I came to the agreement that her little sister should be exiled to the closet. As she was just two years old, Heather didn’t have the wherewithal to fight our decision. So we led her inside, shut the door and went back to our game of Cootie. My aunt checked on us a bit later and immediately noticed we were short one kid. Realizing what we had done, she scolded us thoroughly and uttered the one phrase that strikes fear into the heart of (almost) every child: “I’m calling Santa Claus and telling him to bring neither of you any presents this year! You’ve both been very bad girls!”

I calmly watched my aunt storm into the kitchen to make her phony phone call. Meanwhile Jen immediately burst into tears and started to wail miserably. Obviously she knew nothing of this Santa sham. Thinking it would make her feel better, I tenderly whispered, “Jen, it’s okay. Your mom’s not calling Santa Claus. There is no Santa Claus.” Jen only wailed louder.

But all’s well that ends well. As far as we can tell, Heather has shown no symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder from her time in solitary confinement. We all got Christmas gifts that year. Most importantly, Jen forgot within minutes my Deep Throat attempt to expose the Santagate scandal. Though it was never my intention to shatter the innocence of her childhood that day, I’m nonetheless grateful that she decided to repress all memory of it.

Since then, I’ve observed several times as a child catches a glimpse of Santa at the parade or in a mall. His face lights up with joy. His eyes go wide with excitement. He’ll point out the bearded old man while thinking about how this very same Santa will soon be flying with his eight tiny reindeer to bring presents to all the good boys and girls around the world. I’ll look at this little tyke and think to myself, “sucker.” But really I’m just jealous. As an adult, the capacity to believe in the magic and wonder of life, whether at the holidays or otherwise, is difficult to cultivate. You probably won’t ever find Santa on your rooftop or the Easter Bunny in your backyard, but whatever it is you do find – that chance sighting of a shooting star, four-leaf clover or double rainbow – take a second to revel in it. Those moments come far and few between.

Finally, to my dear big sister… I wish you a very merry Christmas filled with much laughter and happiness. And one last thing – Mom and Dad have always loved me more. Now we’re even.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses to “Santa’s Little Whistleblower”

My friend Candice (who was born on the 4th of July) doesn’t remember finding out Santa was fake but says she’ll never forget finding out the town fireworks weren’t for her birthday!

December 23rd, 2010

Aww! Poor girl. That is too funny!

December 23rd, 2010