Monday, December 17, 2018

on magic and monsters

I was reading this article yesterday and thinking about magic.  As in what you lose once you cease to believe in things like monsters and Santa.  Or the almost heartbreaking effect no longer believing has on the child brain.  When I was in 4th grade, there were rumblings of disbelief.  Many kids had already had "the talk" in which all was revealed.  We had a couple of Jewish kids and at least one Jehovah's Witness who we listened incredulously to as they said they'd never had Santa creep into their houses and leave presents.  While at first may have been easy to  shrug it off and go about making perennial red and green construction paper chains,  I was starting to have my doubts.  There was an incident a couple years before where Santa "forgot" my new Candy Land game conveniently in the trunk of our car. One afternoon, I cornered my mother as she cleaned the bathroom and ask for some straight talk, and while she kept asking me "what do you believe?" in the end she consented to the fact that Santa didn't exist.  I stood there and suddenly was crying.  The Easter Bunny?  The Tooth Fairy?  Fairies in general?  All fake...I was devastated by this news...

Of course, my mother assured me we would continue to get presents "from Santa" which continued up until her death. And I was forbidden from telling my sister, 4 years younger, the truth (we occasionally still joke that since I never told her, she still totally believes he's real--also that since my mother never removed her embargo against riding her bike in the street, she still can't as an adult.) Even though we often were shopping with my mother and picking out gifts, we would find them wrapped under the tree when we went open gifts marked with Santa's name, never hers.

If you take Santa out of the equation, and all his magical friends, there too goes monsters and ghosts and the possibility that they might be real.  My mother had a loose religious upbringing, she considered herself a Christian, my Dad was similarly secular in mindset, so it wasn't like we still had to believe in Jesus and Mary and all that business, and I wondered how kids who did reconciled Santa's not realness next to miracles and virgin births.  I'd sooner believe in a man in a suit flying in a sleigh through the night sky than someone turning water into wine or walking on water.

But then again, the news that Santa wasn't real changed how I looked at the world, sucked the magic out entirely. Or at least it seems like did, but looking back, I was still ready to believe some things.   Around the same age that the Santa news was revealed I had also stopped sleeping with the covers over my head, which I had been doing for years, because my maternal grandmother had just died, and since I inherited her bed and bedding, I had nothing to fear with her watching over me.  (I still believed in an afterlife at that point.)

Despite my secularism, I am still weirdly superstitious.  I broke a mirror a few weeks ago and joked (kind of) that every spilled coffee and returned package was related.  I say "knock on wood" a lot.  Obsessively so at times. I am willing to believe in hauntings even without a belief in the afterlife--as impressions, as dimensional weirdness, even if I don't believe in ghosts.  Willing to admit maybe poltergeists,  telekinesis, ESP exist.  I also stupidly have a fear of playing things like Candyman or Bloody Mary in case they might be real, but oddly have no similar reverence for ouija boards and spiritual ways of contacting the dead.  So maybe not all was lost in "the talk" it definitely did change my ideas on magic and monsters, but maybe I still believe just a little as a grown-up.

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