Anyway, I had to add my own little story of silent reconciliation. I moved to my current home in suburban Philadelphia in first grade. It was November at the time, so a lot of kids in class were talking about what they wanted for Christmas. Naturally, social butterfly that I am, I joined in, talking about what I wanted from Santa. Now if you don't know anything about Blue Bell's religious makeup, it can basically be summed up as being a 50/50 split of Jews and Catholics with a few Hindus, Jehova's Witnesses and Irish Buddhists sprinkled in (I kid you not, Kyle O'Hara was a Buddhist). Anyway, so me and my good little Catholic friends sat in a circle talking about our deepest desires from St. Nick. All of a sudden, a little Jewish boy (who will remain nameless) comes over and yells at us, "SANTA ISN'T REAL!" Now, when you're in first grade, you don't take such sacrilegious threats against the core of your faith lightly. Of course, I responded, "HE JUST DOESN'T GIVE GIFTS TO YOU BECAUSE YOU'RE JEWISH AND YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN HIM!!" Of course now the teacher is hustling over to the corner because I said the J-Word. I got a talking to about not making fun of people and I just sat there grumpily for a while. This wasn't my fault, clearly this kid was mistaken. I mean how else could one possibly explain the fact that I got mountains of toys in the same wrapping paper each year with my name written on them in the same color sharpie marker? Clearly it wasn't my parents faking it because they used different paper and they used gift tags, not sharpie. Using my powers of deductive reasoning, the only reason this kid didn't think there was a Santa was because he was Jewish and Santa didn't come to his house. The little Jewish boy and I stopped talking to each other.
I found out the truth about Santa two years later when my great aunt brought a bag of gifts to the house a few days before Christmas and left them outside of her room. The top gift had a gift label that said "To: Matt, From: Santa." It took me a while to internalize all of this. Santa doesn't use gift labels! Santa would never use that wrapping paper! How did my great aunt get advance gifts from Santa? Were his reindeer injured? Yeah, that was it, he needed help delivering because...um...Rudolph's nose needed a new bulb...or something. The truth was staring me in the face, and I just didn't want to accept it.
My fears were confirmed on Christmas morning when I opened the package and it was a red turtleneck that was far too small. Santa doesn't give you clothes that don't fit. In fact, Santa doesn't give you clothes, period. Great aunts give you red turtlenecks that don't fit because they only see you every few years. After a while I was actually thankful that it didn't fit because it gave me an excuse not to wear a stupid, choky, scratchy red turtleneck.
I tried to forget about the Santa issue for a while, and as Christmas faded into the background, so did Santa. I didn't talk to anyone about it until the next Christmas Eve, when I told my mom I had known about it for a year. She tried to tell me that everything was alright and that Christmas was still a magical time, but it was worthless, Santa was dead.
I moved up to the middle school in sixth grade. I figured this was a good time to try to restart a friendship with the Santa Killer. Really I didn't have much of a choice, as he was the only kid that I knew in my class. Nevertheless, we just sort of pretended like nothing had ever happened and went about our business. We played a lot of basketball together, and I think the fact that we used to hate each other made liking each other a lot easier because the expectations were set so low. I really can't fault the kid either. I mean, who doesn't want a jolly fat man in a red suit giving them tons of presents? It's SO MUCH more fun than getting one present a day from your parents. I can just imagine that he asked his parents why Santa came to the other kids' houses but not his. I can see his mom nonchalantly responding that Santa wasn't real. I can see him in class jealous of the joy that talking about Santa was bringing the other kids. He wanted it, and he couldn't have it. Because Santa wasn't real. The only way to stop his jealousy was to take away the other kids' joy. So, he got up, sauntered over to the circle and yelled out the three words that can destroy any kid's childhood...
SANTA'S NOT REAL!!!