(The following was my 'Catch a Rave' column for Dec. 21, 1997.)
I am the lowest of the low, the blind albino worm that crawls in the silt under the slime at the bottom of the deepest, darkest cave. And yet, in doing the thing that made me feel this low, I know I was doing the right thing.
My 9-year-old son (who asked to remain anonymous when he learned I would be sharing this story with the rest of the planet) had been asking questions about THE TRUTH for weeks, off and on.
Questions like, "Do you really believe in him?" and, "Does he really live at the North Pole?" and, "Maybe it's not really Santa who brings the toys, maybe it's God."
And so I asked him if he knew THE TRUTH. Yes, he said.
He said YES.
I asked him how it made him feel. Okay, he said.
He said OKAY.
Lulled into a false sense of relief that he had only been pumping me to see how long I would hold out, I tried to talk to him about how he felt. figuring that somebody at school had already dashed his holiday beliefs, I told him how I had found out THE TRUTH.
Terror dawned in his eyes. Blank, abject, world-shattering denial.
To say that he cried would be like saying that Hurricane Opal had been an autumn shower. He bawled, he snorted. He shook and gusted. He said, "I can't believe you're telling me this!"
And the terror came alive in me as well, as I realize that he did not, in fact, know THE TRUTH until I had told him.
I had shattered his faith. I had betrayed his trust. In one fell swoop, I had killed Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy like some kind of virus deadly only to fables and archetypes.
I am guilty. GUILTY, I tell you.
But after a minute or so of allowing me to console him -- and after my wife tried to convince him that this was all just a really bad joke on Daddy's part -- he suddenly realized that this TRUTH stuff might not be so bad.
After all, his little sister still doesn't know THE TRUTH, so he's still assured of getting gifts from the Big Red S -- and if he gets, in his words, "really crappy toys" from Santa this year, he'll,know who to blame.
Who says THE TRUTH will set you free?