MOMoirs by Sara Groves

December 02, 2012

Posted By: Shaunescy

I remember the exact moment when I learned Santa isn’t real. During “show and tell” in

third grade, Renae Yarnell stood up and calmly announced to our class that Santa was a

sham – that, in fact, our parents gave us all of those gifts under the tree.

You can imagine the ripple of disbelief that echoed through our classroom: Santa – not

real?! What could this mean? What kind of implications did this news have for all of the

other wonders of childhood like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny? Was it really

possible? Could our parents be staying up late, wrapping presents and assembling toys

into the wee hours of Christmas morning?

As I thought about this shocking bit of news on my walk home from school that day,

even I, who could play make-believe until the cows came home, had to admit that having

my parents assemble toys and place them under the tree was much more logical than a

bunch of elves hammering away with tiny tools in a workshop. And flying reindeer? A

fat man who can slide down a chimney? What a fool I had been!

When I questioned my mom about it that afternoon, she told me the truth: no Santa, no

Easter Bunny, and no Tooth Fairy. I was devastated. And I remember distinctly thinking

that my life was going to be different from then on since future Christmases, Easters and

tooth losses would definitely lose the mystery and excitement that surrounded them. And

I was right.

So I work extra hard to keep Santa and the magic crew alive for my boys. Of course it’s

far easier to keep the whole scam going for my kindergartener, Peter. He’s younger and

therefore not so inclined to run into skeptics on the playground, but he is also like me in

that he accepts all things magic at face value. The tooth fairy, Santa, the Easter bunny,

leprechauns, elves – not to mention monsters in the closet, under the bed, and downstairs

in the laundry room – are as real to him as I am.

On the other hand, Mike, who will be eight years old this Christmas, is one of those

people who disassembles something just to see how it works. So it goes with Santa and

the gang, which means since he was about three years old, I have been constructing more

and more elaborate lies to keep the magic alive.

The first question came a few years ago on a sultry summer day after Mike had

discovered a globe in our basement. “Where’s the North Pole?” Mike asked me. Being

slow on the uptake as I often am and with Christmas just about the furthest thing from my

mind in mid-July, I pointed out the Arctic Circle.

“But that’s all water,” Mike said. Yes, I explained. That region of the world has an

exceedingly harsh climate that doesn’t support much in the way of life.

“But where does Santa live then?” Mike asked.

“Hhm...” I said, my brain whirring, trying to come up with some kind of explanation.

“Lapland. Yes! That’s it! He lives right there in Lapland!”

Mike seemed satisfied with that answer, but later that year, on Christmas Eve, I had

the brilliant idea of using the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Santa

Tracker, which lets kids follow Santa’s journey LIVE as he delivers toys to children all

over the world (while giving examples of the world’s Christmas cultural traditions and

information on geography and more – a Type A mother’s dream come true).

Nearly instantly, Mike commented on how quickly Santa seemed to be moving. I told

him that Santa had a lot of ground to cover and he couldn’t waste time.

“Does he really deliver toys to every child in the world in one night?” Mike asked

quizzically. I explained to Mike that thanks to various time zones, Santa actually had two

nights; plus there were a lot of children who didn’t celebrate Christmas for one reason or

another so he didn’t have to stop at their houses.

Mike, however, couldn’t just be cool with Santa flying around the world in his sleigh

as we watched his journey on our computer. He wanted to know about the logistics of

getting a sleigh, without wings, in the air (magic); reindeer, which he had seen once at

a zoo and didn’t appear to have flying capabilities (more magic); and how in the world,

if Santa is so magical, is he tracked on the computer (simple – a GPS is implanted in

Santa’s leg; this horrified Mike by the way).

And so it goes. Last year, before Christmas, Mike came out of his room holding one of

Santa’s gifts from the previous holiday season. “Mom? I noticed this present I got from

Santa last year was made in China,” he said, as a look of horror slowly crept across his

face. “Does Santa really support cheap labor in China?!”

No, no, no, I explain. Santa would never do such a thing. There are so many children in

the world these days that Santa can’t possibly make everything at his workshop so he

subcontracts with big toy companies that have all relocated to China recently. Mike’s

eyes narrowed with suspicion but, surprisingly, he walked off.

My confusing lies must have convinced him about Santa because a week later when

Mike’s front tooth fell out, he told me that he didn’t think the tooth fairy was real, that

someone else, which he said with pointed emphasis, came and put money under your


“Like who?” I asked as nonchalantly as possible, already formulating a whopper to keep

the magic of childhood going for just a little while longer.

Mike’s eyes grew wide. “Santa,” he said. “It just has to be Santa!”


Sara Groves lives in Helena where she is mom to Mike, age seven, and Peter, age

five. She coordinates the early literacy program, Ready 2 Read, at the Montana State

Library and also works as a freelance writer.

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