Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The End of the Innocence

(With apologies to Don Henley for stealing his song title to label this post)

When did you lose your innocence?  No, not that kind of innocence.  The kind where the magic of Christmas is so strong - so unquestionably permanent in your schema - that you can't imagine it ever going away?

I lost mine at sixteen.  I woke up early on Christmas morning and felt the usual thrill of holiday excitement that normally would have propelled me out of bed in the dark to see what Santa had left me.  Only, that year, I glanced at the clock.  And something shifted.  I realized, in an instant, that if the gifts were already down there, they'd still be there in another hour.  Or two.  And then I did what up until that moment in my life would have been unthinkable:  I rolled over, and went back to sleep on Christmas morning.

I've always described that morning as the day I "grew up".  I actually thought it was sort of cool that I could pinpoint one specific moment in my emotional development that signified maturity and self-control.

But it wasn't until the other night, on a different Christmas Eve, that I realized the truth: my father had died ten months before that morning, and that was the first Christmas without him.

My decision to stay in bed probably didn't have anything to do with facing reality:  it was actually all about avoiding it.

It seems obvious, as I type this, but it took me twenty-six years to make that connection.  So maybe I really did hold on to my innocence a lot longer than I've always believed.

Or maybe now, at least, I know where it went.