This is me back in 4th grade in 1974. I can hear the giggles and see the pointing all the way across the blogosphere. God, that was a bad look for me. Although, the hair and sweater may have made me an excellent candidate for a spot with the Bay City Rollers. All I needed was a little tartan and a Scottish accent. What do you think?
It was before Christmas when this woman, Sister Gabriel, my 4th grade teacher, decided to drop a bombshell. No, she wasn’t retiring immediately and thus making 4th grade safe for children once again. That would have been too wonderful. Her announcement wafted over our heads menacingly like the smell that occurred when she made a boy named Tony sit on the heater to dry his pants after he peed them. And it was just as disturbing.
I can’t remember what led up to it but this is what she said:
There is no Tooth Fairy. There is no Easter
Bunny, and there is no Santa Claus!
(Whimpering and Screaming)
As you can imagine, we were distraught and all ran home crying to our parents. Kids back then weren’t as jaded or grown up as kids are today. Our childhoods, and in many respects our innocence, lasted longer. All of my friends still believed in Santa at the age of nine, so Sister Gabriel’s announcement caused a bit of a moral dilemma. On the one hand, there was this authority figure, and a nun to boot, telling us this “truth”. On the other hand, she was a mean old biddy who hated children. What to think, what to think.
When I informed my mother what Sister Gabriel had said, she was very upset, saying that Sister Gabriel had no right to say such a thing, who did she think she was, etc. Then Mom calmed down and proceeded to dazzle me with her explanation.
Well, I feel sorry for Sister Gabriel
because the only thing she’ll get in
her Christmas stocking is coal.
That was an excellent passive-aggressive response, wasn’t it? Fake concern for Sister Gabriel’s stocking contents while delivering an insult. Give my mother some props! Mom then went on.
But, is she right? Is Santa a lie?
Let me ask you a question.
Do you fill your own
No! Who fills their own stocking?
That’s right. Mommy doesn’t fill
hers and Daddy doesn’t fill his.
Let me ask you another question.
Do you see how my mother has mastered the art of deflection? Like a smooth politician, she never answered my original question but went on to distract me with other questions and answers. Brilliant!
Do you fill Daddy’s stocking?
Of course not!
How about Mommy’s stocking?
No! You’re silly.
Well, if you don’t fill your stocking and you
don’t fill Mommy’s and Daddy’s stockings
and Mommy and Daddy don’t fill their
stockings, who fills them? Hmm?
This reminds me of those annoying word problems in math class that would include lots of extra information not needed to actually solve the problem. Instead of focusing on the trains traveling in opposite directions, I’d always get hung up on what the conductor’s name was or what kind of sandwich he was eating. Now I see why.
Well, it has to be…Santa!
I proceeded to hug my mother and I ended up believing in Santa Claus for another couple of years. Mom gave me more than answers that year. She gave me the permission to continue believing despite the protestations of others. And she gave me love. These two things have always been the most treasured gifts. They certainly beat coal. Do you hear that, Sister Gabriel?