I remember to ask, “When did I stop believing in Santa Clause?”
She pauses. I wonder if she can pull it up, this fragment of many starting to fray. “You were in third grade.”
“So old?” I am embarassed.
“No. It was second. Your friend Mary Jane, the Jehovah’s Witness, told you that your parents lied. There was no Santa Clause.”
“Oh. That’s kind of funny.”
“No. It wasn’t funny. You came home from school crying. I went over to her house and told her parents that I didn’t care what religion they were, but they weren’t to ruin my child’s religion.
I wonder, this time only to myself, how she would have rather I learned the truth.
“Oh, poor Mary Jane.”
“Poor Mary Jane? I don’t think so. Maybe that’s why …” She trails off, a pinched mouth. I change the subject so she doesn’t get into her lecture about how sad it is that I don’t believe in God.
I don’t have a chance to tell how I feel sorry for Mary Jane being the pariah, the cause of me and my classmate’s lost faith. How hard it must be to be an outsider and, no matter the rationale petty or true, to say the bold truth.
“Mary Jane’s house was where I first had beef steak,” dodging God once more. “It was terrible. Her dad asked how I liked it and I didn’t know. We never had it at home. So I asked for well done. That just sounded better.”
“Your father has finally learned not to burn his steak. Now he’ll let a little pink glow. No blood mind you.”
I don’t start an argument about Santa Clause not having anything to do with Baby Jesus. There is little room for skeptics in my mother’s world.