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.

19 comments:

Löst Jimmy said...

A bitter old woman in my then village shop obliterated the myth of Santa for me I must have been 5 years old...to tis day I curse the old crone who as I recall eerily resembled the Wicked Witch of the West, all that was missing was her flying monkeys.

Merry Christmas Steve, hope all the family have a nice time

Gorilla Bananas said...

Somewhere on Earth, on Christmas Eve, a fat man with a white beard will be going down someone's chimney. Of that much I'm certain. One day, you could share in the magic by being the fat man yourself. Better get busy sending your CV to millionaires who'll go the extra mile for their kids.

Steve said...

Löst Jimmy: hope a house dropped out of a tornado and squashed the crone flat... as if life isn't cruel enough without people adding their own twopennethworth. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Gorilla Bananas: given the state of the world at the moment the fat man down the chimney will end up being arrested and questioned as part of the Savile investigation... I think I'll keep my CV to myself for the time being.

libby said...

Every year I listen for the sleigh bells.....if you don't believe then you will never see him.

Steve said...

Libby: it helps if you drink a lot too apparently.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

I am too embarassed to tell how old I was when I just had to give up believing. Hmmm sleigh bells - Morris bells... Hey, who am I to dispel the magic?

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: there are more embarrassing things to believe in than Father Christmas... our politician's promises for one.

Livi TeePot said...

Hehe! A very Merry Christmas to you hun!

Steve said...

Livi: and a very merry Christmas to you too! x

the fly in the web said...

I was told very early on that it was the parents, not Santa Claus, who filled stockings, so I can't remember ever believing in him.
Doesn't stop me enjoying the thought of him, though.

Steve said...

The fly in the web: yes, maybe the invention of Father Christmas is the virtue rather than the reality?

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Yes about the politicians. I'm just popping back to say Happy Christmas having er done Father Christmas' job for him, and forced down the nip of ginger wine, a mince pie and a radish (the kids thought the reindeer needed some variety) that were left on the table. Did I say Ho ho ho and Happy Christmas to you and your family? Love Jeneane

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: that's Father Christmas out of a job along with the rest of the us then! Merry Christmas to you and yours too - have a great one!

Suburbia said...

That's lovely :)

Merry Christmas to you too

Steve said...

Suburbia: and to you and yours, thank you.

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

My boy is 6 and still very much believes, but I am sure his logical brain will work it out soon enough. Hopefully we'll get the joy of Santa next year as well.

It's such a magical time of year for them and for once modern technology with the PNP videos and Norad santa tracking actually helps to prolong the joy.

Steve said...

Very Bored in Catalunya: Norad Santa tracking? Really? I'm disappointed that Interpol don't play along with this...

Trish Burgess said...

I remember one Christmas Day morning when I was little, we were driving to my Auntie's house and spotted Santa walking along the street with 'emergency chairs' (a la Peter Kay) under each arm. I think my mum wound down the window and waved. He didn't wave back because of the chairs but it was quite exciting nonetheless.

Steve said...

Trish: they must have been Professor Hawking's Christmas present...