Busted! A True Story about a Fourth-grader, his Adoring Mother and her Horrible Memory

I would have gotten away with it, at least for another year had it not been for my horrible memory.  And I scoffed at all those advertisements for the Nintendo Brain Age games.  Ha! What a fool I was!  If only I had spent my mornings solving cross word and Sudoku puzzles instead of watching episodes of General Hospital and Inside Edition, then I wouldn't find myself in this predicament.  I could have had one more year, one more Easter filled with wonder and a magical bunny with herculean strength.

In the beginning, my husband and I made a pact about the magical creatures that we would introduce to our children and invite into our household.  We agreed that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Naughty Leprechauns would enhance the magic of childhood and our children's imaginations.  However, we also discussed that we would confess all as soon as the children started to ask questions.  Obviously, we only had one child, Cassie, and she was an infant.  It was so much easier to make those kinds of decisions when I was stuck in the movie Groundhog's Day with days dedicated to feeding a baby, changing diapers, cleaning laundry and sleeping.  I never imagined that the days on the calendar would blur past me, and that the years like granules of sand would easily slide through my clenched fists.

And even as I realized that time was suddenly racing past me and all I could do was simply sit in the passenger's seat of my children's lives, fasten my seat belt, try to enjoy the journey and not get left behind - it still wasn't easy when in fifth grade I had to confess to Cassie the truth about Santa.  As we had agreed upon, I was supposed to honestly answer her questions about Santa, except she asked, "Is there really a Santa, Mama?" with her blue, earnest eyes only a week before December 25.  I averted her gaze and offered her dessert.  I, selfishly, wanted to enjoy one more Christmas with her and Santa.  However on December 28, I took her for a Mama and Cassie special day of shopping.  In the car on the way home, I confessed the full truth about Santa.
 
Cassie sobbed - her whole soul wrenched as sorrow filled my heart, my soul and tears poured down my face, too.  And then at a stoplight, she looked over at me and asked quietly, hesitantly as if already knowing the answer, "What about the Tooth Fairy?  The Easter Bunny?  The Leprechauns?"  I shook my head and pulled into a parking lot.  I looked at her, this child of mine, my oldest, my first baby and my only daughter and I confessed it all.  Her sobs were only interrupted when she silently whispered, "But I thought that there really was magic in the world."  Her disillusionment cut into me.  I tried to defend my actions, "There is magic in this world.  But you create it yourself.  The magic is inside you."  Cassie was no longer listening, just glancing at me accusingly, wounded and betrayed.
 
And now, looking back, I still cringe at the scene:  the vivid picture of her little face, scrunched and red, the burning of her eyes into mine, how little she looked strapped in the backseat of my husband's car.  But I had to do it.  Would it have been easier had I answered her question on December 18 when she originally asked?  I like to think that it would have not been any easier, and at least by delaying the inevitable, I was able to treasure one last Christmas of her child-like wonder and anticipation.

So now, I get to the reluctant inspiration for this recent post:  this morning, my horrible memory and Phillip's wink. This morning started out like any typical, frenzied morning in my house.  I was staggering around the kitchen, sloshing the coffee haphazardly in my cup, talking incoherently and trying to wake up.  Brooks, clearly not born with my foggy-in-the-morning brain, was chattering like a telethon at the breakfast table.  Cassie, long past her days of parental disillusionment as her expectations of me were all shattered years ago, efficiently made herself breakfast, got ready for school and perched herself with her school belongings on the chair by the door waiting for the school bus.  Phillip, the sleep-loving slug-a-bed of my heart, stumbled down the stairs fifteen minutes before he should leave for school.  As he was shoveling cereal into his mouth without any regard for proper dining etiquette, he looked at me and said, "Mama, tell the Easter bunny that I want the Pokémon Black game for Easter."  And then, he winked.
 
I attempted to clear the fog from my brain, shook my head and asked, "Why the wink?"  He smugly replied, "Because I know who the Easter bunny really is."  I cocked my head to the side and quickly glanced at Brooks to make sure that he was not privy to the ensuing conversation.  Brooks was still giving a lengthy, detailed description of not only his dream, but his hamster's dream as well.  (I really should pay more attention to that kid.)  I leaned closer on the counter and asked, "What do you mean, Phillip?"  He looked at me, rolled his eyes and said, "I know that you are the Easter bunny."  The school timer set on the microwave started beeping.  I quickly sent Brooks out the door and asked Phillip to stay behind.

Me:  "So, what do you mean that you think I am the Easter bunny?"

Phillip: "Well, you won't stop asking me which Pokémon game that I want for Easter.  You keep saying that you are going to tell the Easter bunny when he asks you for ideas, and I know that bunnies do not speak English!"

Me:  "Why do you think that?  Have you ever talked to a bunny?"

Phillip (with another eye roll and hands on his hips): "Mama, they twitch their noses and have their own bunny language.  You are totally the Easter bunny."

Me:  "Well, do kids talk about this at school?"

Phillip: "Not about the Easter bunny, but John told us all that Santa is really the manager at Toys R Us 'cause he saw the manager hand his mom a bag at the store and then the tags on the gifts at Christmas said they were from Santa.  And they were the same toys that he saw in the Toys R Us bag.  So, we all know now." 

He glared at me and dared me to challenge him.

Me (not ready to give up the Santa thing so soon after losing the myth of the Easter bunny):  "Wow!  I wonder if I can get a job as a manager of Toys R Us.  It's time for school.  Hurry!" 
I shoved him out the door.

Had I not asked him so many times about that darn video game, would I have gotten one more Easter with him excitedly searching for his basket and wondering in awe just how the Easter bunny can carry it and get it into the house?  I don't know.  There is a part of me that wishes that he would have asked me about everything this morning, like Cassie did.  I fear now that he will begin to question each holiday or event, and that the special gleam in his eye reserved for magic will slowly fade away piece by piece.  Would it have been easier to confess it all and have that light extinguished all at once instead of losing those fictional, magical creatures one by one?   I am not sure. 

It was so very painful with Cassie that I just hope it will be easier with Phillip.  I can't even begin to fathom the degree of sorrow I will feel when Brooks, my last baby, discovers the truth.  But for now, I really hope that I can have just one more Tooth Fairy visit, St. Patrick's Day filled with Leprechaun antics and Santa-filled Christmas with Phillip, and I want to hold onto those memories as long as I possibly can.

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  • You are so quick on your feet with comebacks! Is the jig up with Brooks yet? Or is he still a believer? Do the older kids still pretend for him?

  • Funny! I remember when my middle child, who was the first to figure things out, was so determined to pull out an answer from me, in spite of all my evasions. She cupped my face in her hands, looked me in the eyes, as point blank told me she NEEDED me to answer her. She must have really been ready, but it still broke my heart.

    When her older brother figured things out about Santa and we had the talk, he went right on down the list, too. "How 'bout the tooth fairy? Easter Bunny? (pause) God?"

    Hang in there.

  • I was so convinced that I would have one more full year of believing with my middle child that it is really hitting me hard. Thankfully, my youngest still believes.

    However, I have a feeling that the first big fight the boys get into, my middle child will use that knowledge like a dagger stuck into the youngest. They are the best of friends 90% of the time, but mortal enemies 10%. Thanks for the words of encouragement, Ladies!

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