Having spent the better part of seventeen years on this planet, knowledge has always been accumulating. There is a still an endless amount that I do not know. Only my personal experiences shaped the teen sitting, typing this paper. I am no longer the little boy pictured in this photograph. Unfortunately, time changes everything. I can no longer look at the picture as I did then. Everything in that picture has changed, most importantly, me.
I entered the mall with my mother. It was December, 1994, and I was going to get my picture taken with Santa! Everything was perfect, including my matching velour jumpsuit. Yes, for a few moments I would be able to share with the list-maker all my wishes. Of course this wasn’t Chris Cringle in the flesh; he was simply a formality in the whole bureaucracy. All I had to do was dictate the contents of my Christmas list and the head honcho himself would get the news. I waited in line, my mother paid for the Polaroid, and we were off home. I can smile now when I recall the day, and frown when I realize my sense of style peaked when I was six. Things were great, everyone was in the spirit of the holidays. However, nothing could prepare me for the events of Christmas Eve that year.
Nothing. Exactly what all my prior attempts to capture a glimpse of Santa had produced. My determination was greater than that of figure skater Tonya Harding. Thankfully, my plan did not involve clubbing St. Nick in the knee with a pipe. I would simply sneak out of bed and wait. Positioning was key, I gathered my crayon-blueprints. This was serious business. I only had to go through the final motions before I could begin the operation. Milk, check. Cookies, check. Stockings all hung. I bid my family adieu and retired for the night.
Or so they thought. Kept awake with my excitement, I could barely keep still. After what seemed like hours, I deemed it safe to venture out from my bedroom. I would position myself behind the curtains in our living room. I would see him! I stepped lightly to the edge of the corridor and peeked around the corner. ABORT! I could see my parents downstairs. I knew that detection meant only bad things in my immediate future, so I gingerly began to back up-wait a second…what was Dad doing? I pressed up against the cold white plaster of the wall as I watched my father consume Santa’s cookies. Why was Dad eating Santa’s cookies? My brain struggled to validate what I had just witnessed. No! It couldn’t be. My eyes widened as the horrible truth dawned on me.
There was no Santa Claus. My mind was racing through images of Christmas, and I felt sick. The entire thing was a hoax. A sham. I’d been fooled my whole life into believing all this stuff that wasn’t true. Immediately paranoia set in; what else was a lie?!? I went back to my room and quietly closed the door. I climbed into bed and wrapped myself up under the blankets and in the silence. Left in the empty room to think with a hot head, I fell asleep.
That night I closed my eyes and when I open them I sit in front of this computer screen. The torrent of emotion I felt that night is something I recall vividly, but I realize that discovering the myth of Santa was inevitable.
In retrospect, I understand that the illusion of Santa is better to have lost than never to have at all. That night, the anger within me was palpabe and justified, but with age comes perspective. Realizing that being with family was the most important thing was something I came to grasp over the years.
If only I had some catcher in the rye to prevent me from taking a swan dive off of childhood's mountain and crashing down into the real world's harsh truths. Alas, that bit of my youth was consumed much like Santa's cookies. But truthfully, I'm thankful that I believed as long as I did, because those holidays when I was young were some of the happiest days of my life.