People often fail to realize the crushing abnormality of their lives as children. I was convinced that all the other kids’ mothers traded their pacifiers for small toys at the local five-and-dime as a reward for kicking the habit, or that the other kids’ fathers had jars of exotic bugs in preservatives at home and in the office. That was all I knew; that was “normal.”
Case in point: my parents always told my brother and I that we each got three wishes from Santa, as if he was some kind of genie you summoned by rubbing a Christmas ornament or something. It never occurred to me to compare notes with the other kids, because as far as I knew they each got their three wishes too. It wasn’t until third grade, when a friend boasted about the seven (!) things he’d gotten from Santa and another was excited about his single and solitary Santagift that I postulated the big man must have different allocations for different houses.
Now, of course, I know that my parents were a little low on the money scale my first few Christmases, and the tradition became ossified (plus, upping the present count after I was regularly a brat would hardly have sent the right message). It wasn’t until all the kids were in college and Santa was just a fond memory that we were chipped down to one gift apiece–and that quickly fell to zero as the family drifted apart and stopped spending holidays together.
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