I remember the day clearly. It was sunny and cold, I was eight years-old and entertaining myself outside sorting my bottle cap collection. Note: bottles used to have caps that had to be pried off, leaving behind colored metal discs with logos.)
My cousin Richard came outside and somehow the subject of Santa Claus came up.
“There is no Santa Claus. It’s just parents dressing up and making believe.”
I argued for awhile, he presented his evidence and ultimately he convinced me. Talk about outrage! Talk about a conspiracy! I had trusted them…the teachers were in on it, my parents were in on it, ALL the grownups were in on it! Burl freakin’ Ives was in on it! What ELSE were they lying about?
The years passed with me questioning everything- much to the chagrin of authorities in the Golden Age of American Conformity. “Hey, you lied about Santa Claus, you had me setting out cookies for that fat faker for years. Why should I believe anything you say now?” I thought but did not say out loud.
I grew up and had kids of my own. I told them Santa Claus is basically the Christmas clown, a guy dressed up pretending-and then told them the story about the North pole and the reindeer and all that. They loved the story and still wanted to tell the Christmas Clown what they wanted for Christmas.
They wanted the Easter Bunny to bring them candy and the Tooth Fairy to reward them, too. The fact that I told them these were stories made not the slightest bit of difference in their enjoyment of all this, but it did make them lovers of stories and (unfortunately perhaps) much less skeptical than I about the pronouncements of authority figures.