Saturday, December 22, 2012
I Believed In Father Christmas
I can’t remember the exact age I was when I stopped believing in Father Christmas. About 6 or 7 maybe. By modern standards that’s possibly a good innings.
I do know that nobody told me. Nobody let the cat out of the bag or suddenly decided that I needed to “man up” about Christmas.
I worked it out. A slow dawning realization that the logistics, the physics... they just didn’t add up. My parents didn’t help by declaring certain cupboards off limits during the run up to Christmas. That aroused my suspicions. Plus relatives got sloppy about bringing presents to the house. They did it in full view of us. When you’re a kid you remember even the smallest glimpse of wrapping paper. When Christmas morning arrived and that same paper appeared again... well, 2 add 2 inevitably makes 4.
I remember feeling gutted. An excoriating disappointment that left me completely deflated and flat. The world seemed greyer, drabber and smaller once the truth was upon me. No magic. No flying sleigh. No Father Christmas coming down the chimney. No toy factory at the North Pole with a happy workforce of elves making toys.
Just mum and dad. Just Nan and Bampap. Just Auntie Edie and Uncle Harry. Auntie Maude. Auntie June and Uncle Bill. And all the rest.
It is only now that I can look back and see that there was magic in the truth after all. All those aunts and uncles. My grandparents. All those jolly smiles – the jollier I suspect for having lived through WWII and thereafter counting their blessings for being alive every single day.
Mum and dad thankfully excepted, all those names that meant so much to me are now all gone from the world. Dead. Vanished. I have memories of their voices that I cannot pass onto my own kids.
Instead, we have Father Christmas still. And though my 11 year old sussed it out some years ago we persist in the ruse for the sake of my 5 year old. I think that small temporary belief in magic is the most precious gift of all. It creates, if nothing else, a capacity to find and cherish the real magic of life when you’re older... for all you have to battle through that initial disappointment. Sometimes lies and sham merely disguise other truths.
I do remember one year though, when I was about 25. It was Christmas Eve and I’d come back home late from a mate’s house. I hadn’t drunk too much; just enough to be warm and merry. I tucked myself into bed – it had gone midnight so technically was already Christmas Day. I remember wishing the world a very Merry Christmas as I settled down to go to sleep.
And I heard – just once – the sound of sleigh bells. Very distinctive. Very clear. Somewhere close in the crisp midnight air.
I know, I know. Some drunk marlarkying about on his way home. Or some parent going the extra mile for his/her kids.
A logical explanation is out there somewhere, I am sure, and probably not very hard to find.
But just for a second... I did wonder.
And every year since... just for a second... I still do.
Funny thing, magic.
Merry Christmas to you all.