I must be a mother's nightmare. I think the reason that my sister waited so long to come down here is because my parents needed a break. Is there anything worse than seeing the light fade from a child's eyes, his belief in fantasy and his hope for the world shattered?
I was blessed and cursed with a very analytic brand of thought, one that strives for coorelation and causation. It was not important that the VCR played videos, or that my red remote control car zoomed all over my mother's now not-so-spotless tile. What I so desired to find out was HOW these things happened. How in the world could a hunk of molded petroleum derivative hooked up to a metallic cylinder filled with electrons bring my mother such agony? How did the big black plastic box produce cute monster-shaped fabric with hands inside them? Why did they so cheerily recite the ABC's? Why didn't they blink? My room was littered with the remnants of tv remotes and flashlights long since forgotten. No toy escaped my greedy clutches. I still pull small gears out of unmentionable places.
This frame of thought led me to exploration of every aspect of the world around me. I spent hours cooped up in my room reading instruction manuals. Legos, Tinkertoys, and K'nex (yeah, remember those?) were my best friends, for only then could I exercise absolute control of my environment and know exactly how everything worked.
I watched water go down the drain, then dug canals in the sandbox whenever it rained. The mail man soon tired of my constant inquiries. ("I don't know how it works, kid, I just drive the truck!") My poor teachers' only hope for a moment's peace was to place me in a corner with a "Math for Smarty Pants" book.
Soon my young mind happened across a seemingly insurmountable clash of logic. My friends and parents testified of a fat jolly elf who came down the chimney in winter, bearing gifts for the well-behaved. I trusted my parents, for they had never led me astray. My rudimentary knowledge of physics, however, led me to a host of unresolved cognitive dissonances.
"Mom, Santa isn't real, is he." My chin was thrust out in intellectual defiance. My hands, strategically placed upon my hips, demanded a prompt answer. Had there been any pin to drop that was not currently holding my stuffed animals (who were scrupulously organized, not by height or color, but by the type of animal, a precursor to my later zoology studies) together, it would have resonated like an out-of-tune tuba. "'Cause there's no way he could visit all of the children of the world in one night."
My mother is an honest woman. She told me the truth.
It logically followed that the elves, reindeer, and other such mythical winter characters were nothing in my eyes but a two sided ploy. One goal was to get children to behave, the other to get parents to spend money. Both seemed to work surprisingly well, I thought. I chose not to divulge my hallowed secret to the weaker minded among my peers. I deduced that the Easter bunny was also a farce, along with his partner-in-crime, the Tooth Fairy. I insisted that my parents continue the income-producing ritual, with the condition that they leave the teeth, because "Those are cool!". I stashed them in a plastic cylinder, which I still have to this day. Years later, I would regret that my oral surgeon would not be able to complete the collection with my wisdom teeth.
Despite the obvious repercussions of my discoveries, my parents fostered my curious intellect, even going so far as to purchase a set of childrens' encyclopedias. These encyclopedias were my Red Rider BB gun. My eyes swelled when I first saw them. "Finally!" I thought, "Someone has figured everything out! They even put it in book form . . . I must descend upon this fountain of knowledge and devour it immediately!"
"Mom . . . what's this?" My poor mother's eyes followed my forearm down to my finger and then widened in horror at recognition of the full color cross section. How could her sweet young child be asking such questions? Why did a so-called children's encyclopedia even have such images? These questions had little relevance at this point. Pandora's box had been opened, and my mother knew that no half-baked explanations would do. Were she to attempt some sort of feigned explanation, the bombardment of questions that soon followed would completely overwhelm her defenses.
And thus my innocence fell. I knew where Christmas presents came from. I knew where babies came from. Since then, I have longed to return to a world of fantasy. Books and movies do little to quench my thirst. Whenever I try to believe, a voice nags me until I give in to logical explanations. I am doomed to languish in a world of hard facts and cold figures. Instead of being utterly enlightening, as I had hoped, I find it to be rather dull.
I will not buy my son an encyclopedia.