I was a trusting child. Some might say gullible, but I just didn’t expect people to lie to me. And while I may have learned fairly early that my older brother and sister might be setting me up for an embarrassing fall, I had 100% faith in the word of my mother.
That’s how it came to be that, at age 7-1/2, I was the only kid in my class who still believed in Santa Claus. Part of my tenacious hold on the myth came from my mother’s cautionary tale: When she was little, she’d at some point declared that Santa didn’t exist, and he never came to her house again! I certainly didn’t want that to happen! But a large part of my stubbornness in the face of schoolyard teasing was my confidence that my parents simply didn’t tell lies.
Finally Mum realized I was not going to lose my innocence via my peer group, so she sat me down for The Talk. “Honey, it’s time you learned the truth. Santa? It’s me and Dad.”
At first I thought she must be joking. She had to bring forth scraps of fabric from previously received clothes as evidence. I clearly remember being overwhelmed by a sense of betrayal, and bursting into sobs.
The loss of faith — in the Santa fantasy, and in my mother’s word — rocked my world. I’d been humiliated on the playground because I’d believed her! What kind of parent would do that to their kid?
Overdramatic? Yes, of course, but I’ve always felt things strongly. Eventually I forgave her, but the experience made me into a different style of Mum: one who never fed her kids lies about mythical gift-givers, or anything else.
You could call it a loss of innocence, but maybe it’s better to brand it as a loss of blind faith. Maybe that’s the day I started being skeptical, of looking beneath the surface, of reading between the lines, of questioning assumptions. I guess that’s a good thing. But at the time, it just felt tragic.
And Mum was right about one thing: once I knew that Santa wasn’t real, he never did come to my house again. Sure, I still got gifts, but they weren’t from him.
So tell me, what’s the most precious thing you’ve ever lost?