make believe

August 27, 2018

I was at an arcade with my cousins when I found out that Father Christmas wasn’t real. I don’t remember which one blurted it out, but the truth hit me like a steel pinball. I was seven or eight, and still very much delighting in the wonder of Santa. My Mum had done a splendid job of keeping the magic alive; half eaten carrots in the garden, biscuit crumbs around the fireplace, a trail of individually wrapped presents throughout the house. At 40, I swear I still hear the tinkle of bells on Christmas Eve. True to tradition, I indulge in the magic with my own children, sending beautiful letters across the globe, scattering glitter on their pillows, and yes, leaving half eaten carrots in the garden. The magic is for them, and for me, also. “Your children give you the first four years of your life back,” I once read. But when my daughter, nine-years-old, cornered me this morning, demanding the truth, I had no choice but to say, “Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, none of them are real.” It wasn’t disappointing for her to hear, or for me to say, because she’s absolutely ready for the truth. She asked me why I lied to her the last time the question came up, and I explained that I felt there was still room in her imagination for it, and that she wanted, needed even, to believe in it all. I’d been a bit robbed, and I wanted her to enjoy and relish in the magic for as long as possible. As the eldest of three, I asked her to now help her parents continue the magic for her siblings. “Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, they’re not real, but the feeling that believing in them gave us, that feeling is very real. You’ll see.”

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