My parents don’t believe in lying. My mother is almost fanatical about always telling the truth, no matter what. That’s why they decided to never tell me there was a Santa Claus. In Mom’s view at the time, Santa was fake, and telling kids about Santa was the same as lying to them.
Paulina Salvador was a little girl who lived around the corner and four houses up the block. I’ve driven by her house many times as an adult; in grownup eyes it’s very close, maybe a three-minute walk. But in 1974 four year old girl eyes, it was on the other side of the world. I guess if The World is your backyard, then yes. It truly was.
So I seldom played with Paulina. Going there wasn’t as simple as walking across the street and ringing the doorbell. It took more of an effort. Our mothers arranged a time over the phone. Now I suppose you’d call it a Play Date. But in the 70s it was just called “letting the kids play together”. In the 70s not everything sounded like a marketing campaign for itself.
The last time our mothers arranged for us to play together I went over to her house and hung out in her basement. We were playing something to do with kitchens. House, probably. That was a reason I never liked to play with other kids and preferred to stay home and either read or play by myself. Other kids played dull games. So we were in the middle of cooking fake dinner in a fake kitchen when Paulina said something about Santa bringing her a baby for Christmas.
Now, if you know me at all you know I’m not one to just let something go I don’t agree with. Not even when I was four. So I of course had to tell her that she was sorely mistaken. There was no such thing as Santa and all the presents came from Mommies and Daddies.
Paulina started yelling. I probably yelled back. Then she started crying. And her mother came to see what was the matter. I thought “At last! A person with some sense!” (I viewed adults as complete beings of reason and substance, whereas I thought of all children as ignorant and useless. This was probably because the only children I knew at the time were my two-year-old brother and infant sister. Both of whom did very little of consequence.) I explained to Paulina’s mother, with a tone of wonder in my voice, I’m sure, that Paulina was sorely mistaken in her belief that Santa was bringing a baby for Christmas.
Paulina’s mother was horror-struck. You could tell by the look on her face. She told me that I had to go home, and so I left. I suppose, looking back on it, she was probably wanting to get me out of the house before I started explaining where the BABY was coming from. Because I knew that, too. After all, I’d already welcomed two infant siblings and knew full well that they grew in Mommy’s tummy.
After I’d been home for awhile my mom sat down with me and explained the nuances of Santa. That it was better if I didn’t tell other kids there was no Santa because that was something for their parents to do. I think, though, that my mom was a bit proud of me. Or afraid.
After that my brothers and sister grew up with a more lassaiz-faire approach to Santa. Parents often learn a lot of lessons on their oldest children.
(I was thinking of this when Slarti said something today about my need for exactness being a by-product of my illness. This is probably one of the better examples of how I’ve always been this way, well before I was sick. )