An Unpleasant Realization

April 18, 2008
By Hannah Kannegieter, Glen Allen, VA

It was a brisk spring day in first grade, and a whinier, younger version of the current me clambered into the red Honda Civic. I was in an excitable mood, for we were journeying to Borders, one of my favorite places to be. I loved running my smooth, tiny hands over racks of CDs, or scanning titles of glossy books whose contents I would have been unable to fathom. The atmosphere of such a place fascinated me; I can recall wondering at the smell of new paper that filled the air.

“When are we going to get there?” I complained as soon as the car was in motion. My mother replied that it would be approximately thirty minutes, an eon in the short attention span of a six year old. I decided to engage my mother in conversation. After breezing across several topics, we hit across that parental land mine, Santa Claus.

“So, Mom, do you believe in Santa Claus?” It was a question lightly asked in the spirit of boredom, to which I expected an automatic yes. Of course she would say yes immediately, anyone who doubted Santa’s existence would have to be insane and, like a rabid dog, should be avoided at all costs. “Well…” she hesitated “not in the way you do.”

I was confused, and asked, “What do you mean?” She proved tight-lipped, but, like an armed robber, I would not stop harassing my victim until I got what I wanted, caring little whether or not it resulted in their death. Finally, she could take my badgering no longer. “Santa Claus isn’t like you think…he doesn’t wear a red suit or come down chimneys. He’s just…the spirit of Christmas.” Well, I was a little put out about these fabrications, but put it all down to commercialism, failing to grasp her point. After all, I had already figured out that Santa really came through keyholes, otherwise how would he have gotten into apartments? “But he still gives presents, right?” While yes was the expected answer, it was not what I received. “Well, no,” she responded.

Despair filled my young heart as I shrank away from her. My illusion had been shattered! It wasn’t true, it couldn’t be. By this time we were pulling into the Borders parking lot and I was inconsolable. We stayed parked for a full 10 minutes while my mother comforted me until I was stable enough to enter the store. In truth, I had no desire to go. The thing that had once brightened my day had lost its luster, as we entered the store I kept my eyes on the floor. I gave a listless stare to a pile of CDs that once would have intrigued me but were now simply worthless plastic. I took little enjoyment from the trip, though by the time we got back to the car my mother had managed to wrangle me into slightly better spirits.

It was a bleak ride home, I was silent the entire time, teeth clenched, brooding. Upon our arrival at home I walked, head hung, straight to my room. The time to think had catapulted me back into my previous mood. My grandmother’s cheery greeting and inquiry of health were met with a mumbled “Fine,” as I retreated to my room for a long night of sorrow. I gazed at the Charlie Brown sticker on my wall without really seeing it. I felt genuine lugubriosity, it was as if a good friend had died or a family member had forsaken me.

I grieved the entire evening, with successive members of my family coming to offer comfort. Even my father called (I have no idea how he found out, probably my mother told him) and sympathized. My grandmother’s attempt to minimize the “death” of Santa didn’t work, I only felt disturbed that anyone could take something so awful so lightly.

The next day, my gloom had lifted considerably. While I wasn’t exactly chipper, it was quite an improvement on my preceding condition. I stood by the window, gazing at the just-trimmed grass. My mother entered the room. We made some small talk, and then I voiced what I had been pondering. “If Santa Claus doesn’t exist…then the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny don’t either. Do they?” I fixed her with a calculating stare. “No, they don’t,” she replied with a rueful smile. I nodded, but felt oddly tranquil. Santa was myth, a well meaning lie told by parents to small children all across the country. I could feel anger with none of them; they had only been attempting to make Christmas more enjoyable.

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