How I Grew Up in an Hour or Less

 

As you may have heard, I accidentally spent the last week and a half reading, with a few short breaks to sleep and do some Christmas shopping. As a result, I have no new material to share with you. Instead, I’ve decided to share a personal story about the holidays that I wrote for my composition class last year (and got an A on so, yeah, it’s pretty good.)

Warning: This story might be a blow to your Christmas spirit, especially if you are a child. Tread lightly.

“Rachel, I need to talk to you about something.”

Oh, no. My chest constricted and my body flooded with chills in spite of the late July heat rolling through the windows in waves. No one liked to hear that sentence, least of all a tightly wound little fourth-almost-fifth grader. I was fairly certain I hadn’t done anything naughty, but I nevertheless wracked my brain as I trudged up the stairs to figure out what exactly I’d done to deserve whatever punishment Mom was about to dole out.

“Am I in trouble?” I demanded, wide-eyed, as I stepped through the French doors into my parents’ bedroom.

“No,” Mom answered, and my heart sank even further. Unless we were going to Disney World, this wasn’t going to be a good conversation, and we’d firmly vetoed a Disney trip earlier in the year. This was certainly not going to be fun. Now I didn’t even know what to expect. I did a quick inventory in my mind: I’d walked by both of the dogs on my way upstairs and they hadn’t looked dead, and I could see the cat eating dinner through the bathroom door. I’d spoken to Grandma and Grandpa Schollaert on the phone earlier today; we were leaving in a week to visit Grandma and Grandpa Pintner. I was at a total loss. It was too late for this, I lamented, sighing and climbing onto the bed at my mom’s invitation.

“You’re almost a fifth grader,” she started, “and I don’t want you to be the only one in your class next month who doesn’t know what I’m about to tell you.”

I looked blankly at her, hoping I was able to mask my dismay with brave suspicion.

She held out a hand, and I peeked at what was there, overcome by morbid curiosity. In the middle of her palm were two small, white rocks of some sort. I peered closer and realized that they were not rocks, but rather itty bitty teeth, that, Mom explained, were mine.

“Do you know why I have these?” she asked gently.

My heart felt like lead as it sank into my stomach. I was pretty sure I knew exactly why she had those, but I didn’t trust my voice and only shook my head.

What followed next was a shocking, harrowing explanation that took my entire world and sent it on a rollercoaster of deception. When the ride was over and I stepped off with shaking legs and gelatinous insides, I had stepped into a world where childhood was dead.

The Tooth Fairy was fake.

Santa wasn’t real.

My whole life had been a lie.

I was traumatized. Mere minutes ago I had been an innocent, carefree fourth-almost-fifth grader whose only concern was who I would play with at recess. Now all that was marred by this glorious burden of adulthood. My mind was buzzing with questions and I’d barely even processed this somber truth. What would next Christmas be like? How will I keep such a significant secret? What will I tell my friends? Does this mean the Easter Bunny’s not real either?

I was dimly aware of my mother’s voice buzzing in the background. She was saying something to the effect of, “It’s okay if you’re angry angry or if you want to cry.” I was, however, surprised to realize I didn’t feel anything like that. Part of me was tempted to go on the attack and demand why my parents had lied to me for eleven years about something so important, but I grudgingly accepted the excuse that they were just trying to make my life a little more magical. Instead, I was filled only with subdued acceptance. Anyway, I reflected, hadn’t I known this at some level all along?

The next logical step was to solve the mysteries that had become unsolved as this new truth unfolded. The “bell from Santa’s sleigh” was just a decoration from Hobby Lobby; the “reindeer fur” was, in fact, from a friend’s horse Gypsy instead of Blitzen, as was suggested at the time. The man who had claimed to be Santa on the telephone was a friend of my father. The small part of me that was hoping this was just some grand ruse to break my spirit died a little more with each plausible explanation.

“Are you okay?” Mother asked.

“I suppose,” I sighed. Truthfully I wasn’t, but was anyone really?

I accepted the hug my mother offered and then left to prepare myself for bed. In the privacy of my own room, I wept briefly and stoically; it was the last time, I believed, I would cry for such childish reasons. It was justifiable, I argued to myself, but nevertheless immature.

My life was undeniably different now. I knew the dismal truth of Santa Claus. There was no telling what school was going to be like now or how Christmas would feel (though I suspected bleak and empty.) I wanted to fight it. Maybe through denial I could delay the inevitability of growing up, but even as I thought it I knew it was not an option.

As I laid my head on the pillow, I made a deal with myself. I would fight, cry, struggle, and lie, but only for today. A tear slid along my cheek and pooled onto a sheet barely cooler than the oppressively warm air in my room, and right now that was okay. But tomorrow? Tomorrow when I woke up, tomorrow on the dot— tomorrow, I would be a fifth grader.

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