It was last spring, before Easter, when my son brought home that fateful Purdy’s Chocolates fundraiser catalogue from school. As I perused the pages, drooling over the little chocolate eggs and bunnies, I wondered aloud if “the Easter Bunny should shop at Purdy’s this year….”
My son let out a guffaw and a snort, and I gave him a wink.
My daughter’s sharp eye for detail didn’t miss a beat. I could almost see those little cogs turning in her brain.
Finally, she said, “Mom. Are you the Easter Bunny?”
I didn’t know what quite to say. I was stumped. I gaped a bit, my mouth opening and closing like an oxygen-starved trout. Nick just kept making funny sounds, like he was trying to hold back the laughter.
This didn’t help the situation at all.
She questioned me again, this time demanding me to tell her the truth, her temper raised up a bit. At this point, I had a choice to make. Tell the truth, or lie and keep the mystery alive.
Let’s say the choice I made was the wrong one.
All I did was ask “Do you really want to know?”….
She burst into tears, informed me that whenever grown-ups say that then it’s really true, and then asked me The Question that is far worse than the innocent query of where babies come from. She simply asked “Are you Santa Claus?”
I stammered a bit. I tried to say that Santa was love, and who loves you most in the world, the magic of Christmas is in our love for one another, and the enchantment of Christmas is all about the secrecy and sweetness that captivates young and old, and so forth. I tried to smooth that transition from innocence to awareness for her. But I failed. All the while, her dear sweet face clouded over, with the realization that another childhood mystery was taken away from her.
She dashed off to her room, crying and telling me that I ruined her childhood. She barely spoke to me for the whole day.
See, when Nick figured it all out, all on his own, a few years earlier, he seemed more proud of himself for unravelling the mystery than sad about losing a part of childhood that is wrapped in ribbons and bows and magic. He was so proud to be entrusted with the secret, and he never told a soul.
Silly me. I assumed that my daughter would be as logical and scientific about it as well. What was I thinking? My two children are as different as night and day.
I knew that my daughter had somehow knew the truth.… Rumours had flown around the schoolyard the year before that Santa didn’t exist. I had told her back then that he was real, as it was just before Christmas, and the magic does indeed exist. But her doubt remained, even though I tried to convince her otherwise.
Oh, how I want her to still have that magic. But I cannot undo it, even though at times, I sure wish I could. It does make it easier in ways though, to explain to the kids that money is not an infinite resource in our house, that we have decided to ski this year, and that expense is basically our Christmas. Much easier than trying to figure out how to explain that Santa won’t be unloading a crapload of toys under the tree this year, due to the fact that we bought skiis and passes.
She is bitter about it. This will remain as something she holds against me I am sure.
Now when I joke about Santa, she glares at me. If I mention reindeer, setting out cookies and milk or creating a wishlist for the jolly old fellow up north, she sighs. She refuses to take part in it at all now.
What I wonder about is this: When my glorious and beautiful daughter grows up, is this one of those things that defines her distate for me? How badly did I screw this up?
Perhaps not as much as I fret about. Or perhaps enough to keep some future therapist busy for a few years.
Ho. Ho. Holy shit, I hope I didn’t f*ck up too bad.