It was a friend's dad who spilled the truth. We were in the backyard and they were insisting he wasn't real. I was arguing hard the other way. Lying came easy to me and I'd been in trouble for it more times than I'd watched Gilligan's Island. My parents made it clear, they weren't into lying.
So he's real.
But then our friend's dad broke the truth. He said it out loud and for some reason it landed. Suddenly, it all made sense. A fat man in a sleigh pulled by magic reindeer? Coming down a chimney and leaving presents all in one night? I knew it. I always knew it.
It's a lie.
All that sitting by the window and watching the sky, laying in bed awake to hear the reindeer land, sneaking out to see the cookies half eaten and the milk gone. The stockings stuffed, the presents in mysterious handwriting. The special feeling.
That was a milestone, a sort of lame passageway into adulthood. Some cultures are sent into the wild or stung by insects to be considered an adult. We had to admit Santa isn't real. And we were pissed. My brother and I confronted our parents. My dad just shrugged, I think. My mom tried to crowbar the lie back in place.
The spirit of Santa is real.
Not the same. The spirit of Santa wasn't downing those cookies. You were. The spirit wasn't wrapping those presents or stuffing those stockings--and don't tell me the spirit was in you. Not the same, Mom. Not the same!
So anywho, I wasn't going to do this when I had kids. You have kids? You don't? Let me tell you the worst kept secret about parenthood. All those ideas you have right now about how you're going to parent? Flush them down the toilet. Sometimes you're just hanging on till the ride is over (another secret: the ride never ends).
So I had kids. And I did the Santa thing. I just couldn't rob them of the magic, couldn't outcast them among all the other kids. It just seemed not right. So we put out the carrots for the reindeer, drank the milk and ate the cookies, the whole nine. They had all those sweet sweet sleepless nights waiting for the reindeer to land. The only difference was this.
"Is Santa real?"
"What do you think?"
"Don't tell your sister."
And that was it. They weren't pissed. Of course, they weren't quite the caliber of liar I was growing up, but that was besides the point I think. We didn't drag it out, no forcefeeding the myth. It was make-believe and it was fun. They figured it out and now they were in on it.
So then what's this Claus Universe all about?
I've written six books now about Christmas legends in a way that portrays Santa and elven and flying reindeer and living snowmen as real, using sciency means to tie together the magic threads. My wife reminded me, at one point, what are you doing? Isn't this just a different version of the He's-Real feeding tube?
She might be right. Maybe I'm trying to recapture the mysterious magic that was lost in growing up. The blanky, the pacifier, and all those childhood toys are back there. Maybe I just wanted to climb into the toy box again.
So here I am, six books into the Claus Universe. I keep finding more toys to dig up. Ronin, the last reindeer, is the latest installment. He's like Rudolph, but bigger and badder. His story is like all the other ones in the Claus Universe, standalone novels with some crossover characters.
They aren't exactly bedtime stories. They're more like Harry Potter without the wands. It's growing up problems, it's adult problems.
And plenty of my mom's Christmas spirit.