We aren’t sure when she found out – I know that, after having had it ruined for me at a young age by my older cousin, I wasn’t the one to tell her. It’s a kind of devastating truth, if it comes too soon. I might not like my sisters all the time, but I love them enough to be unwilling to smash those rose (and green) coloured glasses.
I blame Sergei. The number of times she came home upset about something that Sergei did, throughout the years, I can imagine that this little boy I never met was probably to blame. I’m pretty sure he was in her classes around the time she lost the faith. Or at least, around the time we figured out that she had lost it.
Regardless of when it happened, the more important part is what her reaction to it was. It seemed like she genuinely believed she was saving Christmas for us by maintaining the charade. Like, since she was the youngest child, and the last to still believe, that she was the only one standing between us and a desolate, tree-less, cookie-less, present-less December, hardly more exciting than any other soggy, slushy winter month. I think she thought the rest of us only participated in the big day as a way of helping to maintain her childhood innocence, and that, once she had lost that, we’d move on to other things. Less present-filled things.
She became the defender of Christmas. She was so over-the-top super-duper excited about it. She talked about Santa like she was being sent secret messages on a nightly basis. She squealed with excitement – the same squeal me-at-10(or 24…) would emit if I found a horse with a bow on it in our back yard – when she saw Santa from the Santa-picture-line.
She brought holiday spirit like a cheerleader strung out on tinsel and candy canes. What do we love? CHRISTMAS! When do we love it? ALWAYS and FOREVER!
She didn’t just like the season, she bowled through the festivities with enough intensely ferocious BELIEF that she could have single-handedly won the Leafs the cup. Mall Santas everywhere were probably waking up a-la-Tim-Allen to find themselves with a full natural white beard and 30 extra pounds of jolly belly.
She decked the halls like Muhammad Ali decked… other boxers…
She rocked around the Christmas tree like a hurricane.
She was ensuring that Christmas, as we knew it, stayed right where it ought to be. IN. OUR. HEARTS. DAMMIT! She was really, really worried she wouldn’t get presents if mom and dad knew that she was no longer a believer in the man in a big red coat.
Much as we found cracked-out-on-Kringle Doodle to be entertaining, we found it alarming enough that we did our best to convinced her that Christmas wouldn’t end (and, more importantly, the presents would keep coming) just because she knew the big secret about Santa. As long as, of course, she didn’t share this knowledge with ANYONE.