View Full Version : Experimenting with style

July 3rd, 2013, 07:33 AM
This is something I did for nursing school last year. It is somewhere between fiction and non-fiction, but I wanted to post it in fiction because I would like some feedback on voice from a story-telling aspect.


I don't remember my own discovery that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy weren't "real", It was a gradual realization, I think, and so not very memorable. Perhaps this gradual realization is why I hold the uncommon beliefs that I do. However, I do remember my daughter's realization. And it was definitely memorable, for it made me wonder whether bringing my child up so differently from my own upbringing had been futile, or worse, had wrought the polar opposite effect of what I had intended.

I was brought up Roman Catholic. Some may argue that this predisposed me to believing in magic much more than the average person, while others may argue that believing in the hosts of heaven is not magic at all. So perhaps I should define how I interpret "believing in magic". For me, there is a difference between paranormal and magic. Paranormal encompasses those experiences which fall outside the accepted knowledge base of what science believes to be true. These experiences cannot be explained or proven with modern scientific facts. Magic, on the other hand, is more in the realm of belief and energy. In other words, seeing what you believe to be a ghost would be paranormal. Wishing on a star and having that wish come true would be magic. Having an altercation with Bigfoot would be paranormal; answered prayers would be magic. So in this respect, I have never stopped believing in magic. The lines I have drawn with my definitions, though, become blurred when the subject of magical beings is introduced.

We as adults say that those beings aren't real - the elves, the leprechauns, the fairies, the talking or flying animals - but what do we mean by real? Perhaps no jolly old elf with special powers flies down the chimney on Christmas Eve, but ordinary people do magical things for others in the name of what he stands for. Perhaps no flying, dust-scattering fairy covets all the children of the world's lost teeth, but as parents we cherish the mementos of our children's babyhood, and at the same time want to ease the feeling of loss and fear the child might feel at having something so personal being thrown away as if it didn't matter. And perhaps there is no leprechaun hiding at the end of the rainbow, sharing his pot of gold with anyone quick enough to catch him. But seeing the majesty of a rainbow after the dreariness of rain sometimes may seem to be worth a pot of gold. So the beings themselves may not physically exist, but their existence continues because they are associated with joyful feelings and positive outcomes. And so I decided that I would bring my own daughter up never being told that something wasn't "real". From a very early age, I told her that "real" was what she wanted it to be. That if the thought of something or someone gave her a happy feeling or encouraged her to do something positive, then that something or someone was real enough to affect her and her world.

My daughter began from an early age acting very different from the norm. Perhaps because of my attempts to raise her differently, or perhaps in spite of of how I raised her. At three, when most children ask "why?" ad nauseum, my daughter asked, "and then what?" Where most parents eventually have to produce some profound reason that silences the philosophical why - if only temporarily - while the child contemplates, I was forced to get creative with results and chain-reaction type hypothetical events, which eventually ended with the exasperated statement of, "and then you die!" I stumbled upon her desired answer quite by accident one day. She asked, "and then what?" after I had answered that the next step was death. "I don't know," said I, nearly in tears. "Oh" she said simply, and didn't ask again. And so, happily, once she had come to the limits of Mommy's ability to explain or guess the next outcome, we moved onto the next phase . Unfortunately for Mommy, the next phase was "Why?" She was, at that point, four, and quite rational. No fluff was an acceptable answer to this child's "why?"

Being a single parent, and a college student at that, I struggled each year to bring Santa's presents into our home. During her fifth Christmas, we were in New Zealand doing an immersion study with the Maori. She wouldn't tell me what she wanted from Santa, simply insisted that she had to tell Santa first. So off we went to the mall, waiting in the long line quite silently, as she still refused to get excited until she had Santa's answer. To my horror, when it was finally her turn, my darling daughter told Santa she wanted a baby brother. "Santa" looked at me with panic in his eyes, and when he saw me equally panicked and shaking my head no vigorously, he told her that something like that couldn't be made in Santa's workshop, and had to be worked out with her Mommy. "Maybe next year. But what can Santa bring you this year?" said the kindly mall employee. "Nothing" she said without rancor, and returned to my side. When she finally decided to talk, she said simply, "he must have been Santa's helper. Santa is busy in the North Pole, it only makes sense that he has helpers ask the children what they want. This Santa was from here. I could tell by his accent." And that was that. She truly did not want anything else from Santa for Christmas (though he did bring her a wonderful new realistic baby doll to make up for his inability to bring a real baby).

A little over a year later, her first tooth came out. It wasn't loose. In fact, she was starting to get concerned because all of her friends had lost teeth and she had not. And then one night, with no warning, a tooth came out. It just so happened that it was a night when Mommy had no cash whatsoever, and it was decidedly too late to go get some. She was so excited that she was finally going to be able to contribute to the tooth fairy's collection. Out of desperation, I made up a new aspect of the fable. I asked her if she had heard that the tooth Fairy paid extra money for especially clean teeth. Her eyes grew big as she insisted on knowing "how much more?" Finally, with some well-placed insinuations, we decided that if she didn't put the tooth under the pillow that night, and instead soaked the tooth in salt water to make it especially clean, the tooth fairy would understand and indeed be appreciative. Crisis averted.

Each time she lost a tooth, we would soak the tooth overnight, just to be consistent with the story. Eventually, she got bored with the waiting and told me she didn't need the extra money, she wasn't going to soak her tooth. Of course the night she told me this, I again didn't have any cash. I told her that at this point, the tooth fairy expected pristine teeth from her. She argued the case, with evidence, that the tooth had come out cleanly and she had only recently been to the dentist, that the tooth was not going to get any cleaner with soaking. I insisted. She insisted. She got insistent. I became stubborn. Finally she demanded to know why I would not let her place her tooth that night. I told her she wouldn't be pleased with the answer, and that for her own sake to just let it go. She told me in no uncertain terms that she demanded to know the truth, regardless of how painful I might think it would be. It may be that I made the wrong decision that night, but I felt cornered - unjustly cornered between circumstances and a precocious offspring. And so I told her.

"There is no Tooth Fairy. I do not have any money to give you."

Silence. No denial. No tears. No shock. And no smug "I knew it" look either. After nearly a minute, she said, "So there's no Santa Claus either." It wasn't a question, it was a deduction. When I began to apologize, her response was, "I wanted the truth. Now I have it. Thank you." And then, "so what should I do with my tooth?"

To her credit, she became a worthy ally for keeping the secret from the rest of the children in the family. My niece and nephew, who lived across the street, were able to "believe' until teenagers. Her younger half-siblings, four of them, never caught on that she didn't believe. And neither did her father. She explained to me that she didn't tell him she knew not for greedy or selfish reasons, but because she thought it would hurt him if he couldn't continue pretending with her for a little longer. Indeed, the next tooth she lost was at her father's, and her rendition of her father clumsily trying to get her tooth out from under her pillow, complete with comical tiptoeing and a watch-band snagging on pillowcase lace, is one of the funniest stories she ever told.

My daughter, now nearly seventeen years old, no longer believes in anything remotely magical. Whether it was never really in her nature, or if Mom's fervent belief that believing is seeing has caused a reactionary opposite, I will never know. But her lack of belief has not affected her ability to give for the simple joy of giving, nor to appreciate the beauty of nature's phenomena, nor of being sensitive to children's - and some adult's - fragile concept of self and worth. In fact, she is possibly more giving, appreciative, and sensitive than anyone I know.

My own deeply held beliefs engendered in me the desire to raise a child who believed nothing was impossible; one who understood that thoughts and words create energy and therefore power, and that power can be positive or negative; one that could conceive of a world where intent and desire could manifest potent results, and that belief in the goodness of life could bring about lasting change. The outcome of that attempt created a logical, steadfast, intelligent yet highly sympathetic young woman who believes only what hard evidence can prove. What, then, does that insinuate about the children whose parents describe a Santa Claus who rewards the unquestioning, obedient, greedy child? What traits are we unwittingly reinforcing in our children with our current commercial Santa and Tooth Fairy? Change is never easy to initiate, but for the sake of our children's future, I believe that we as adults need to reconsider the truly magical, and let the all-too human Santa of the capitalists go.

July 3rd, 2013, 11:49 AM
Wait... there's no such thing as Santa!?!

Only kidding. I liked this piece a lot. I wonder what parts of it are fictitious, because the whole thing sounds realistic.

The only time you came close to losing my interest was when you described what "believing in magic" meant to you, and that's only because I felt like I understood what you meant right off the bat!

Other than that this was a great little story!

July 3rd, 2013, 02:41 PM
Thanks... it was the embellishments that border on fiction - taking something that really happened and making it "fit" into the story. I'm pleased that it was seamless enough. Appreciate your time!