I believed in Santa Claus until I was 11 years old. I'm sure I must have had people in school tell me that he wasn't real, but I refused to believe them. My parents, bless them, played with it for all those years, never once letting on that they were playing the role.
Then, one late fall day, I was in the car with my mother and she was listening to the radio. I wasn't listening all that closely to what was being said and I was daydreaming as I stared out the window. But the words "Santa Claus" made my ears perk up and I realized the DJ's were discussing the non-existence of said figure. I didn't believe my peers when they tried to tell me I was wrong, but hearing it on the radio was something different. Those people I went to school with couldn't possibly be trusted and I was sure that they were pulling a prank on me. I was positive they were doing it just to make me look like a fool. But when I heard it from the DJ's, it suddenly clicked. They were right! Santa wasn't real!
I turned to my mother (who *must* have been expecting it) and said, "Mom, you're Santa Claus aren't you?"
I could tell she was trying not to laugh a bit at my indignation but she said, "Yes, honey, we are. But that's not really the point of Santa Claus is it? It's not about the presents, it's about how giving is a good thing and we should give to others instead of always taking for ourselves."
My parents had taught this lesson to us from the time I can remember. We worked with our church during the holiday season preparing food and gift baskets for the needy in our community and we did it at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. After those baskets were prepped, we'd go with Mom and Dad and deliver them to the families that needed them. It was eye-opening. We were never privileged as far as our income was concerned, but we always had what we needed and even lots of things we wanted. We never had to wonder about where our next meal was coming from because Mom and Dad were sure to provide. We walked into homes where that wasn't the case and it made me realize that not everyone had it the way we did in a way that words simply couldn't do.
So, when Mom told me that Santa wasn't about presents, I could understand what she was trying to point out to me. I felt a little foolish for believing the lie for so long but in the end I became proud of the fact that I was so old before I found out.
Now that I have my own kids, I wonder how long the magic of Santa's visit will last. Kids grow up so fast these days - surely the kids will find out before they hit double digits. Liam will be 6 in February and he's in school now. There's bound to be some kid that comes to him with the news that Santa isn't real. How long will it be before that happens? What do I say to him if he comes asking about it?
In the meantime, I know that I'm safe for at least this year. Kipperbuckles is soon to make his reappearance and Liam is already asking me if he's been good that day because he wants presents from Santa. Pretty soon I'm going to have to introduce him to the notion that it's just as important to give as to receive.
I have a twitter friend, Burgh Baby, and she loves to play Santa for kids in need. She's running her Christmas Crazy fundraiser again this year to benefit a local women's shelter and Toys for Tots. I gave a donation both last year and this year because of those lessons my parents taught me. The same lessons I hope to teach my children. She's very near her goal and if you could spare a dollar or two, I know that she will use it to make a lot of kids really happy this Christmas.