I was eleven in the winter of 1987. Christmas was coming, and the brand new school that had just opened for us was decorated for Christmas.
Everything that season had a Christmas theme – they could still do that those years. We had word searches, crosswords, math puzzles – all based on Christmas.
In art class we made paper snowflakes, beaded candy canes, pipe cleaner candles… In home ec., it was chocolate Santa and reindeer molds for chocolate lollipops.
School was a hard place for me to be, but I really liked how they did holidays, and most of my favourite school memories are based around Christmas.
My brother was nearing thirteen, and as a seventh grader, thought it was his responsibility to tell me the truth… “there’s no such thing as Santa Claus,” he told me. It broke my heart.
Who says people with Asperger’s can’t have an imagination? I would have happily kept believing until… maybe my twenties? Maybe I still would have believed today, if no one had told me the truth.
So I did what was true to me, and still is to this day. I went to the library, and took out every book on Santa Claus and Christmas that I could find.
I spent most of that season in the library that year, which happened to have been holding a Christmas based trivia contest against the whole school – I won of course.
It is what I do. I have an idea, and research it to death – then I move on to another idea, and maybe remember, but usually forget a lot of my past knowledge. At the time, though, I was an expert on all things Christmas, but it was a heartbreaking activity.
Where was the magic in that?
My son, on the other hand, wasn’t even two when he decided on his own there was no Santa Claus. “You buy me everything, mommy,” he told me – and no matter how I worked to fuel his imagination, he always has been stuck in reality (a place I rarely like to linger.) I suppose that is more of the typical for those of us with Asperger’s.
So I would dress him up for Halloween. “And what are you?,” the neighbours would ask. “I’m a Tyler,” he would tell them. Can’t you see that? What is wrong with you?
He didn’t believe in the tooth fairy, either, until after his second tooth came out. “Oh yeah, mommy, I believe in the tooth fairy – she gives you money!” But I could see he didn’t believe.
I spend a lot of my time in fantasy, and he spends none of his there. I suppose it is a foolish place to remain, but it has saved my sanity more times than I can count, though others may not understand.
However, I do see the difference between fantasy and reality. I want to make that perfectly clear, because my faith… my faith – now that is different. I know beyond doubt where I stand on this, and that is a belief, perhaps the only one, my son has shared with me.