I was always the youngest kid in my class. It was because the school I started at didn’t have kindergarten – I went to a parochial school in California – and my parents had a choice: keep me home for another year or enrich my mind in first grade. Well, given I had taught myself how to read at 3 1/2 my parents opted for the latter. This never bothered me.
Fast-forward a couple of years. I was 7 years old and in 3rd grade. My teacher’a name was Mrs. Zenner. I will never EVER forget her. Not because she was a great teacher, but because she single-handedly stole the magic of Christmas from me at that tender age.
It was just after Thanksgiving, during those 3 or so weeks of jingle bells, colorful lights, and presents under the Christmas tree. Also the squeal and anticipation of Santa.
I was sitting in my classroom that consisted of about 15 kids. Mrs Zenner was talking about something – what I do not know – when she said the words that stung me through the heart, worse than anything I had heard before or since.
“We all know that Santa Claus isn’t real…”
Those 8 words hit me like a brick wall falling down on my chest.
I stifled back my tears. How could she SAY this?!?! She very obviously didn’t believe. I did. But now, thanks to Mrs. Zenner, I had doubts.
When I walked in the door of my house my mom saw I was upset. I burst into tears as I told her what mrs Zenner said and asked her if Santa was real or not. She explained the spirit of Christmas and Santa and, while I felt better and understood (mom always has a way of making me feel better) I was still devastated. Needless to say, my mom had a few choice words for the teacher, the school, and the parish.
Since then I have had a hard time at Christmas. I find myself withdrawn, a little sad, and trying to overcompensate with gifts and surprises, holding on to that thread of magic with all my might. I get angry at the very thought of my children being told something like this.
As I look back at that moment, I realize it had more of an effect on my life – and the season – than I ever thought it would. At nearly 40 years old I still well up when I think about it or talk about it. No child should ever EVER be told so harshly something as heart-wrenching as this. My husband and I talked about having baggage that we carry around with us throughout our lives, and I immediately started crying as I told him how my childhood was robbed with 8 little (stinging) words.