Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The end of an era


I am not even sure where to begin. Perhaps I should have titled this, "No Virginia..." instead.

How is it that out of no where, completely out of the blue, you suddenly feel and hear the impossibly loud 'tick tock, tick tock, tick tock' of the childhood clock, that elusive keeper of childhood dreams and innocence? Like the horrific vision of a car wreck manifesting itself before your very eyes, you see it happening, you know it's coming, and yet you are powerless to do anything to stop it. You have no choice but to hold on with white knuckled hands, waiting for the moment when you can bear to breathe and allow yourself to realize what just happened. And how very tragic it was.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. H will be 10 in a handful of months. As I think about it, I was younger than she when I posed the most unenviable of all questions to my mother, "Is Santa real?" I still remember her answer so vividly, the moment forever burned into my childhood memory: the noticeable pause, the gathering of her thoughts before she turned to give me a sidelong look and asked in that quiet voice, "Do you really want to know?"

Oh, but it makes me want to scream! I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!

That moment, that singular moment changes everything about your childhood. It is never the same after. Of course you don't realize the magnitude of the revelation at the time, but so often will you look back upon it, seeing that as the start of the end of your childhood. When innocence ended.

It breaks my heart. I can't even write about it now without crying. I know...I know too well what it means. And while I love getting to know her as an emerging young tween she is, I also deeply mourn the loss of my baby girl. Once you cross that bridge, there is no going back, and I am astute enough to know that.

Since the day I found out I was pregnant with her, I think I have dreaded this very moment, without perhaps realizing how much and how deeply it would affect me. Finding out about Santa changes everything. It's almost like you can hear the audible 'pop' of the magic bubble that surrounds everything great about being a kid.

She wasn't surprised or upset, honestly, she seemed more relieved than anything, as if finally understanding the answer to some complicated math problem, an answer she thought she'd pretty much worked out in her head, but just needed that little bit of guidance and reassurance to know she'd been right all along.


It was weird to have that sort of clarity too, knowing you are changing everything about your daughter's childhood when you make your response. You hope you are doing that right thing, saying it the right way, but still the doubts plague you. How can you ever be sure you are saying it the right way, at the right time?

How did she bring it up, you ask? Well, we are sitting at the kitchen table, finishing our dinner while watching O bounce excitedly on the couch, pointing at the TV and yelling, "I want that, I want that!" She was going on about some mermaid Barbie toy flashing across the screen during a commercial and H glanced towards me and said I ought to buy that for her (meaning O.) I said she could put it on her Xmas list and H just fixed me with a look that pretty much said it all, "Yeah, right Mom, I know you are the one who buys all the gifts."

I tried to shake it off, to change the subject, but then she rolled into an accusation about the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny and Santa all at the same time, saying how I (Mom)always knew what was on the Xmas list and I knew if they (the girls) had been good or bad, that I knew when they were sleeping or awake, how I knew just what to get them for Easter and what candy they liked. She went on saying she'd once found a note in a drawer in our guest room that she'd written to the Tooth Fairy, a letter that the Tooth Fairy had supposedly taken, but yet it was in that room and why would it be in that room if it wasn't really us? And on she went, about some boy in school once telling her that he was a light sleeper and once woke up when his Dad was getting the tooth from under his pillow. On and on she went, explaining her reasons why she believed it was really just us.

And so, I was backed into a corner. It was staring me, and her, in the face. It needed to be said.

I told her Santa was more than just one person, or two, or four, or even a billion. He was a spirit. The spirit of giving. I reminded her what Christmas was all about, that it was about God giving his only son for us, and in that spirit of giving Santa came about. She readily filled in the blanks and seemed quite fine with it all, not at all bothered or upset. She noticed I was having a hard time though, but I had said more than once I was sad, sad for what that conversation meant and what it would ultimately bring. Being 9, she can't quite understand all of that yet, but in time, I know she will. I only hope I did it justice, and only time, and her, I suppose can ever really answer that.


It's still hard to breathe.

Tick tock

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