Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 30, 2000

Mary Ann Fitzmorris / L’Observateur / December 30, 2000

His name was David. I also distinctly remember his last name, but I don’t wantto be sued. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for David, right therewith the kid who gave me chicken pox. David is the schoolmate who explainedto me, in painful detail, how Christmas works.

I’ve just added a few other kids to that list; they’re the ones who recently educated my son. It was bound to happen. In schools the world over Santa101 begins right after Thanksgiving. Classes are held at the lunch tables andthe playgrounds. Parents who don’t want their child to receive thisunsolicited elective had better check them out of school until sometime in January.

Jollyman suspicion spreads like a bad flu. My son has fought it off for a fewyears now, but this year it was terminal. We could tell by his demeanor everytime the elves visited. Each remark planted a seed of doubt in his sister. Itwas time to step in.

I did not want to have the conversation that every parent dreads. “What’s allthis talk about Santa?” was my introduction to the subject. He was relievedto hear of my interest and cavalier on the subject in the beginning.

But it soon became clear that while he was enjoying his role as private investigator, his findings were unsettling. He was no more ready to accepthis conclusions than I was ready for him to have them. Finally he lookeddeeply into my eyes, and with quivering lip, asked me a direct question.

“Mom, the best Christmas present you could give me this year, the only one I want, is the truth. Are you and Dad Santa?” I stared at him for a second anddecided that children who are really ready for an answer to that question do not ask.

I responded gently. “I will answer that if you wish, but I don’t think you reallywant me to.” He shook his head sadly, “That’s OK; I already know the answer.”Curiosity welled up inside me. “What is the answer? And how did you arrive atit? When did you first begin to doubt Santa?” “Remember two years ago when I got my bicycle, and Daddy told me the elf’s name was Huffy? I began to notice bicycles everywhere with Huffy’s name on it. One day at Wal-Mart I saw that every bike was a Huffy. I tried to imagineone little elf supplying all the bicycles for all the Wal-Marts. It just didn’t addup.””Then the next year all the packages had writing that looked like Dad’s calligraphy in a green ink. I remembered him showing me a few years ago thathis black ink had turned green, so I checked the bottle, and it wasn’t as dusty as it should have been.””Which brings me to another point. I guess you could just get all those teethyourself and put money under the pillow. You’ve probably got a wholecollection of teeth somewhere.””And the idea of a big bunny hopping around the house hiding candy you could easily buy at the store seems pretty dumb.”I stared at him for a minute. It occurred to me that all of childhood is like astack of cards. Pull one out and they all crash.Without any confirmations, I addressed the musings for only this season.

“Life is full of choices. Do you choose to believe in Santa, or not? If you do,Santa brings you presents. If you don’t, your parents bring you presents.”He was relieved. He didn’t want the gravy train to dry up. I continued. “Thereare two clubs. The believers, who enjoy the show, and the non-believers, whoenjoy putting on the show.” You choose which club you’re in, and you canchange back and forth throughout your life.” Several remarks this last weekindicated that he hadn’t completely crossed over. On Christmas Eve, he wasstill holding out hope. As he drifted off to sleep I asked, “So what have youdecided?” “Well, I’m 98 percent sure it’s you. But that other 2 percent; Ithink….Maybe…”I hugged him and smiled, “That’s exactly what I think!”

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