During the Thanksgiving holiday I had one of those personal revelations, and (thanks to a quirk of fate) steelmagnoliaca happened to be the first lucky person to hear about it.
It was jolted from whatever dark corner of my brain it's been lurking in by a conversation about the last year she believed in Santa Claus, and how her mother found a way of giving her that last year. I asked what her opinion was regarding any potential children in her/our future. She thought that one could wait until they asked... and then tell them the truth.
Without even thinking about it, I disagreed, as that might be too late to save the child some damage. It turned out to be something I haven't thought about in years, easily over 20, and that happened almost exactly 30 years ago.
It was in third grade, and one of the worst teachers from my childhood, Mrs. Rollner, actually asked, in class, who still believed in Santa Claus. Note the careful insertion of the word "still" -- obviously the implication was that we should have outgrown such things by the second grade.
Only three of us raised our hands. I, being the naif I always was, happened to be one of them.
You know, when people talk about the "inner child", usually in some flippant fashion designed to ridicule the concept, haven't stopped to remember the more painful memories. I mean *really* remember them, in the context of how it made you feel at the time. 30 years later, I still cringe thinking about the laughter, the humiliation, of that class taunting me, with the implicit permission of the person at the front of the room.
I don't remember much of what happened between then and later, when I finally got a chance to confront my mom about it. To me, at that point, I felt betrayed twice: Once by Rollner, and the second time by the one person I believed the most when she told me He was real. It was a critical blow to my ability to trust, believe...the very foundation of my faith.
But I remember something important, something that sometimes doesn't seem to sink in at the time. It was my mother, holding me, sobbing, in her arms, and saying "They shouldn't have done that...they shouldn't have taken that away from you." I remember her being angry, but feeling safe...she wasn't angry with me this time. She was angry with Them.
Faith is a delicate thing on the surface. I thought I had lost it once, but began to think I could find it again when I was in college. I didn't know I was starting a healing process that had started 10 years earlier, one that would take 20 years just to get to a point where I have faith again.
And I do have faith again. Enough so that when I tell my children about Santa Claus, it'll be the whole story. I'll ell them that there are people that don't believe in him. That he is both real AND make believe, that powerful place where something is as real as you want it to be. Rationalists and scientist will scoff, and more than likely have profound pronouncements ready to refute my soft headed thinking.
When my faith was a crippled thing, I would become belligerent at such a loss as there's. Defensive, as if their lack of imagination were a direct attack upon my personal reality. Now, I can smile, and tell them that they're absolutely correct -- there is no such thing as Santa.
After you've confronted the divine in the form of an endless universe of miracles, inserting "Santa" (and all the other myths that instantly collapsed in one moment of cruelty and insecurity) is... dare I say... child's play.