If you have any small, literate children please remove them from the room immediately.
I experienced my first episode of secondhand embarrassment in fourth grade chorus. Our teacher left the room for a moment and we immediately started talking about Christmas. Samantha was a nice girl I’d always liked. She was a little bit silly and a little frumpy, but it was an artsy elementary school and she was ten. It was working for her. So when she started talking about Santa, we all thought she was joking. She was not. When we tried to convince her otherwise, Samantha freaked. She said her parents would never lie to her and that if they told her there was a Santa, then there was. It was uncomfortable.
I had my own Kris Kringle bubble burst a little earlier. Two girls in my first grade class cornered me one day at recess and told me that there was no Santa. I was crestfallen but enlightened. Above all, I didn’t want to jinx Santa’s bounty by choosing not to believe before my stocking had been stuffed to the gills, so I tabled my concerns till Christmas morning.
My mother is more of a pre-swollen heart Grinch than a post-swollen heart Grinch. Christmas makes her a little edgy. I don’t know if it’s the stress of giving or the early mornings or the mandatory Christmas cheer, but it’s a lot for her. That morning, after Pandito, our dad, and I had exploded in Christmas joy, my mom excused herself to go lie down. After a decent amount of nap time, I crept into her room and stared at her until she stirred; nothing more peaceful than a little kid vulturing you awake. She smiled and I took her hand and said, “Mama, is Santa Claus real?” For a woman who hates Christmas, she handled this with elan, “Sweetheart, Santa Claus is the spirit of the season. He is not a real person, but…” and then it was something about kindness magic that I can’t remember exactly.*
As for Samantha, though we went on to attend the same middle and high schools we never discussed the topic again. She is married now, according to Facebook, but I’m unsure where she stands on Santa.
*I just told my dad that story last year and he was still mad. My dad loves Christmas. Pandito, Dad, and I are all about getting up early and opening stockings and taking funny reaction pictures. We did not discuss the reality of Santa Claus as a family till everyone was well clear of their respective college graduations.