On this particular Christmas Eve night, I was snug in my bed with visions of Goldenberg's Peanut Chews dancing in my head, when I was jolted from slumber by the roar of my father's voice, swearing a blue streak.
"@##!*&!," came his voice through the ductwork. I sat straight up. What, I wondered, could be going on? Didn't Dad know that Santa was on his way with all those toys and goodies on his sleigh? Surely Santa wouldn't stop by if he heard such profanity.
I crept down the staircase to discover my father kneeling beside the tree, surrounded by various spokes, screws and sprockets -- parts of the very bicycle I had asked Santa for, three weeks earlier. Dad, you see, had purchased the bike unassembled and sat there, blood dripping from his fingernails, frustrated by the intricacy of the gears. My mother, clad in red PJs, sat on the sofa, anxiously clutching a pillow. I quietly sat down next to her and we spent the remainder of the early hours watching my father stumble his way through the assembly process. Santa, of course, never came, and my parents were forced to tell me The Truth.
By the time most of us are 10 or 11, we learn the bitter truth from our older brothers and sisters, from the kids on the playground, and, as in my case, from parents who slip up. Rarely do the adults willingly tell us The Truth.
Here at CL, we thought we'd check in with some other local folks to see how they learned The Truth. Happy Holidays, and here we go.
City Councilman Patrick Cannon, an only child, didn't have the older-sibling early warning system, so he made it to the wise age of 11 before his friend Eric Potts clued him in. The boys were at Potts' house, and Cannon was sharing his confidence that Santa was going to bring him the brand-new TRX racetrack set he wanted.
"(Potts) looked at me like, "Look, don't you know your mom's gonna buy you that set? There's no Santa Claus,'" Cannon recalls. "I looked back at him and said, "What are you talking about?'"
He then went to his mother, and asked if Santa was real. "She looked at me like she didn't want to tell me. She chose not to respond, which led me to assume what the real deal was."
Happily, Cannon's newly acquired knowledge didn't stand between him and the brand-new TRX racetrack set. It arrived Christmas morning, under the tree, erasing all unease about the whole Santa thing.
"I was OK," Cannon says with a laugh. "My focus was on getting that TRX set. I didn't care who brought it. It could have been my mom, Santa, an elf -- Rudolph could have brought it -- it didn't matter."
Cannon's now the proud dad of a one-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter, who's just starting to buy into the Santa Claus deal. Cannon says they'll take part in the festivities of the season, including a trip to McAdenville to see the lights, but they might not visit Santa at the mall.
"We try not to get too involved in the commercialism of Christmas," he says.
Harriet Sanford, president of the Arts and Science Council, says her twin brother began planting the seeds of doubt right after they entered second grade.
"We spent the days after that Thanksgiving looking for the gifts he said my parents had purchased. We never found anything."
The following year, however, the two received as their main Christmas gift an encyclopedia set of the Books of the Bible.
"I decided that only my parents and not Santa would do this to a young child," Sanford remembers.
Every year from then on, until about the eighth grade, Sanford and her brother roamed the house prior to Christmas looking for gifts they knew their parents had bought. Armed with The Truth, they were able to find most of those gifts.
"Of course, having that experience," Sanford says now, "I have taken great pains to hide my daughter's gifts -- and can only hope she doesn't read this article. . . .So that is what I remember. I wish I'd never found out. . .I miss Santa!"
Bob Inman, novelist and former WBTV anchor, says he still believes in Santa, but his concept has changed. Back in the day, however, he firmly believed in the Fat Guy who filled his family's stockings with small candies, nuts, apples and tangerines. Larger gifts -- like his Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun -- were under the tree as gifts from his parents. He thinks he was 10 or 11 when he was rummaging around the kitchen cabinets a week after Christmas, and found some half-empty bags of walnuts and candy -- the same treats "Santa" had left in his stocking. Heavy-hearted, Inman approached his mother. It went something like this, he says: