Although, technically he is still (and always will be) my baby, my son Clyde is now six and a half years old, which makes me worry that soon the day will come when he finds out the truth about Santa Claus. (He already knows about the Easter Bunny, although I think I might have explained it to him in such a way that he now believes that after three days the Easter Bunny comes out of his cave, and if he sees his shadow he then goes back inside and eats ham for another six weeks–or something like that. Obviously, Easter brunch mimosas and explaining early man’s attempt to explain the return of Spring don’t mix.) When it comes to Santa, however, I think that we’re still cool: Clyde is still one of the faithful.
This was not something we ever had to worry about with his sister, Clementine–long before we ever considered it, she was gently informing us that “Santa Claus is just a story people tell because it makes them happy.” She also told us, years before she ever lost her first tooth, that, even though she knew the tooth fairy wasn’t real, when the time did come she would still be expecting the usual dollar (she did allow that placing it under the pillow, however, was optional). But then again, Clementine–just like George Bailey–was “born older.” Not so with Clyde.
Whereas Clementine’s loss of faith came too early for my tastes (I still miss those days when I could get compliance by pretending to call Santa and telling him, “Better not come this year, old pal: looks like somebody just can’t be good”); with Clyde, on the other hand, I sometimes get the feeling that he will be the only kid in junior high who not only still believes in the jolly old elf, but drops a letter addressed to the North Pole into the mailbox every December as well.
The hard truth is that while Clementine is the soul of cynicism, Clyde is the very essence of belief–a condition that has led to some very tricky times in our household, since, as everyone knows, there is nothing a cynic enjoys quite so much as debunking the cherished tenets of the true believer.
And the fact is that it would be far too easy for her to do this, because, for all of his powers of true belief, the one thing Clyde believes in the most is that his older sister knows absolutely everything. And so, as Clyde’s list of Santa Claus questions gets more and more specific (“How will he get into our house if we don’t have a chimney?” “How can there be two Santas in the same parade?” “Why didn’t he bring me wings like I asked for last year?”), I can almost feel the moment approaching when Clementine will gleefully disabuse him of his last shred of faith. For me, on the outside looking in, it is like Clementine is a sharp little pin, and Clyde’s belief is this large, tempting balloon. And it is only my threats of dire retribution that are keeping the two apart.
Not that I’ll have to keep them apart for much longer: even though so far Clyde has been so content with my vague answers to his Santa Claus questions that sometimes I’m afraid he’ll grow up to be a U.N. monitor in Burma or something (“Where did all these toys come from?” “Um, some people believe that Santa’s elves make them in his workshop?”), I know the day is soon coming when he’ll demand some firmer answers. I just hope that when that day does come I will have not yet had my third spiked eggnog. Otherwise he might end up thinking that Santa Claus was born in a manger–and that his first visitors were a couple of Druids.