Doing battle with daily dragons

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

He's Making a List...

Continuing on the Christmas theme, the Rock Star and I were talking yesterday about when it was that we stopped believing in Santa.

Neither of us could remember a catastrophic moment of realization in which all childhood illusions are shattered. It’s something that occurred gradually; a tapering off of belief rather than suddenly catching your mom putting the presents under the tree or your dad eating the mince pies and drinking the sherry. (In America, we traditionally leave out milk and cookies. He must spend most of his time over Europe pissed out of his mind.) It doesn’t seem possible that belief can be something that’s possible to lose in increments, but that’s almost exactly how both of us remember it.

I recall being about 6 or so when I asked my mother the question point blank and even though I knew the answer, I remember still feeling a bit disappointed to hear the voice of authority confirm my suspicions that Santa Claus was merely an anthropomorphic personification of the spirit of the season. The Rock Star’s parents handled it differently; although belief in Santa was encouraged, it wasn’t taken particularly seriously. Notes from the jolly fat man were obviously written by his father (Whereas mine were always written by the uncle whose house we always spent Christmas at) and a certain amount of good humoured joshing always accompanied mention of Kris Cringle. At any rate, we both agreed that the knowledge didn’t dent our enthusiasm for the season, although I can’t help feeling like it must have secretly been a relief not to have been under the thumb of having to “be good” in order to get presents. Santa has millions of kids to deal with and my parents only had me. No way I was going to get denied loot.

I have no doubt that we will continue the tradition with our own children. The years of anticipation and joy far outweigh that one tiny moment of despair. Belief primes an open mind. Terry’s Pratchett’s take on modern Christmas, The Hogfather, sees his own anthropomorphic personification, Death, take the reins of the Hogfather’s sleigh (complete with cushion up his robe and stick on beard) when the Auditors (beings who want the universe to run smoothly and to whom life is considered “untidy) find a way to make it so that he never existed. It’s up to Death and his granddaughter, Susan to bring him back, which they succeed in doing. Taken from the end of the novel, one of my favourite bits.

I WILL GIVE YOU A LIFT BACK, said Death, after a while.

“Thank you. Now…tell me….”

WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HADN’T SAVED HIM?

“Yes! The sun would have risen, just the same, yes?”

NO.

“Oh, come on. You can’t expect me to believe that. It’s an astronomical fact.”

THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.

She turned on him.

“It’s been a long night, Grandfather! I’m tired and I need a bath! I don’t need silliness!!

THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.

“Really? Then what would have happened, pray?”

A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD.

They walked in silence for a moment.

“Ah,” said Susan dully. “Trickery with words. I would have thought you’d have been more literally minded than that.”

I AM NOTHING IF NOT LITERAL MINDED. TRICKERY WITH WORDS IS WHERE HUMANS LIVE.

“Alright,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE….YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN’T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME?