Today was a big day in my family. It was especially important for my little brother, who isn't quite so little anymore.
A couple of years ago, my brother started asking some questions. Christmas questions. You know the kind. He was probably in late elementary school at the time, and I don't remember exactly what brought these questions about, but I remember this feeling of knowing that my little brother wasn't such a baby anymore.
Lots of things happened when my brother started asking questions. He talked about reasons why some things might not be true, and he tried to reason with himself, and he just kept skirting around the actual big question. He never came right out and asked anyone.
So here's the deal... my mom handles Christmas. My dad's Jewish, so he never had to worry about this kind of stuff before he had me. So my mom had decided, I guess when I was really little, that whenever I got big enough to question certain Christmas traditions, she would tell me the truth... if I came right out and asked her.
My mom decided that only when her kids actually asked the big question straight out that she would sit down with them and tell them the truth about Christmas magic.
Well when I was in third grade, a boy in my class (who we all still hate to this day) told me the truth about Christmas only a month before the holiday. I didn't believe him, of course, but I went home and asked my mom about it. I asked her straight out. So she told me.
Now before I get back to my brother, let me just say this... Eight years old was extremely young to find out about the true spirit of Christmas, but I felt honored to be included in the magic after I knew the truth. My mom made it special for me right from the start so that I would still love waking up on Christmas morning. Of course, when I was still little, I never knew about my presents ahead of time. I dubbed myself Number One Elf and loved to help with all of the other preparations, but my stuff was a surprise. But I knew. And that first year that I knew, it was 2001. I found out just two and a half months after 9/11.
That year, my parents decided to take us to Macy's in New York City to see the real Santa, not one of Santa's helpers in the mall. So when I suddenly knew the truth, it didn't really make a difference that year, because I was still asking for the same thing: nothing. When we went to see Santa, I told him that I didn't want anything for Christmas; I wanted all of the kids who lost parents, aunts, uncles, etc. in the 9/11 attacks to get exactly what they wanted instead.
Of course, when I woke up on Christmas morning that year, I found the one thing that I had truly been wishing for (and hadn't wanted to mention), an American Girl doll. But my parents swore that they hadn't bought it for me when I thanked them secretly; somehow, I thought, there was some kind of Christmas magic that had gotten me that doll.
The same thing happened every year for a while. There would always be one gift that my parents swore they wouldn't buy for me because it was too expensive or something, and yet there it was, the last gift I would open on Christmas morning.
Well at some point my brother asked my mom all about Christmas, and he joined in on the magic (somewhat... he wasn't as interested as I was). And that was the end of that.
My sister has never asked. She's never questioned anything. Her belief has never waivered. She's eighteen years old, but since she has an intellectual disability that leaves her with the mental capacity of a child, she has never once questioned anything.
So now back to my brother. When he started asking questions a couple of years ago, he never came right out and asked the one question that my mom would answer honestly. Still, he knew the truth. He even knew about how I had been told, and started talking about the kid from third grade who ruined everything for me. He would go around discussing how much he hated that kid, and he had never even met him! So clearly, he knew the truth about everything.
Fast forward to the next year, and it was as if the conversation had never happened. My brother didn't know anything, and my mom kind of chalked it up to the fact that he was so young and not mature enough to handle the truth, and he probably had forgotten or blocked the memory of our discussions.
This has gone on for a couple of years now, where Christmas discussions have left my parents and I completely floored as to how my brother believes in everything. And then yesterday, he started asking questions again.
My mom told me about the way my brother was behaving yesterday, as if he knew the truth but was afraid to tell my mom. Like, if he didn't believe anymore, something bad might happen (no gifts, probably). So he continued to skirt around the big question and never asked my mom.
Today, my mom and I sat down with my brother to see if we could sort everything out. We didn't want to ruin anything for him, but he's old enough and mature enough to understand everything now. We thought he might like to be included in the Christmas magic this year. It was obvious that he knew the truth already, so we just had to confirm that.
It took quite a while, and a lot of avoiding the actual question, but finally my brother came right out and asked my mom. So she told him the truth. And it was both a proud moment and a really depressing one, because now there's no doubt that my brother is growing up. He's in on the magic.
My mom wanted to let my brother get involved in the spirit of Christmas right away, so she let him stay up late tonight to help with our Elf on a Shelf. He seemed slightly freaked out and slighly amazed by the Elf, but it was fun to have him included in the magic.
The best part about all of this is that my brother wants to actually be involved and help out. Maybe this feeling will fade, and he won't be as interested, but at least for this year he said he wants to help out. He's been officially dubbed an Elf and he's ready to help out on Christmas Eve. He even got to briefly see our hidden stash of Christmas goodies that we've had hidden away... he's really excited.
It's amazing to think that my little brother is really, truly growing up. Sure, he's probably known the truth for a while now (maybe he's even actually known since elementary school when we first had this whole discussion), but he never said anything to us, but now it's all out in the open. It's so cool to share this with him, because I may never share this magic with my sister. It's great to have another Elf to share in the fun with.
How do you share the spirit of Christmas? Do you have little elves who help with the fun? Being Number One Elf is one of my favorite parts of being a big sister!
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