Do you remember when you found out the truth about the holiday spirit we know as Jolly Old Saint Nick? Did your parents tell you the truth or did you happen to catch them in a little deceitful lie? Perhaps you learned from some of your school mates as you rode to school one winter day?
I wish I could say I discovered the “truth” in one of these ways. It would certainly help appeal to my idea that I had a normal upbringing. A fact, I now realize, is not true. For me, the truth came about when I was four years old. We had moved across country into a house my grandmother owned in Tennessee. I lived with my mother, my baby sister, her father, and who knows how many rotating cats/dogs at the time. My father was in the Air Force and I didn’t get to see him very often. But when he did remember to send presents, he would send dozens and dozens for me to enjoy.
Sadly, I think this was a Christmas in which he forgot and money must have been tight. Of course, this is not entirely true, but that is for another blog and another day. My sister was less than a year old and my mother decided that she didn’t have enough money to buy Santa presents for both of us. This would have been my first Christmas as a big sister, so I wouldn’t have known any different if my little sister didn’t receive any gifts. She was also far too young to remember what she received or if she had received anything. But for some reason, this is the very conundrum that led to my mother and my sister’s father telling me the truth that Santa Clause didn’t exist. They even went on to explain why they were telling me, hence how I know it was a financial thing.
Now, I know you are probably thinking this is some “woe is me” post. But in truth, I find myself just perplexed. I’m sure there are plenty of children who learned when they were young about Santa Clause because their family couldn’t afford gifts. But I had gifts under the tree. Why didn’t they just put Santa’s name on one of them? Why did my childhood innocence have to be shattered to protect that of my sister who wasn’t in harm of losing hers?
I know why.
From the time I was two years old, my sister and brother’s father molested and tortured me. For five years, he did everything he could to break me. I had hammers swung at my head, guns pointed in my face as he pulled the trigger, and that’s to say nothing of what happened during those times when my mother was away from work.
It has taken me three decades to realize that this simple act of shattering a young girl’s belief in Santa was just another sick form of psychological abuse from this man. It wasn’t enough that he took my innocence and broke my body, he had to break my spirit.
So why am I writing about this?
Off and on for years, I’ve been hiding partial stories from my past and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of feeling broken and worthless. I’m tired of feeling as if I should be ashamed because of what other people did. So I won’t. I will write my story. Maybe not all at once. Maybe not even all of it. But I will no longer allow him and those who allowed him to terrorize me to prevent me from speaking out.
I am a mother now and I’m proud to say that even my 14 year old son still believes in the spirit of Santa Clause. A few years ago, I told him the true story of Saint Nicholas and how he has influenced the true spirit of the Santa Clause myth. He still treasures that idea and he enjoys being able to find presents for those he loves. He views himself as one of Santa’s helpers and I think that’s the sweetest way a young man could ever view it. He’s a kind and generous young man, and I have protected him not only from losing his faith in the spirit of Santa Clause, but also from knowing the same kinds of pain I endured as a child and later as a teen.
So tell me, how did you learn the truth about Santa Clause and has it helped you to pass on that magical feeling to your own children?