As a Kid we all realize at some point that it was more fun not knowing
By: Chris DuPrau @ChrisDuPrau
It’s the most wonderful time of year! Presents, decorations, holiday songs, acceptable day drinking at Holiday parties, Fa-La-La-La Lifetime holiday movies. This time of year, has it all. As an adult I love the holiday season, but nothing compares to the joy I had as kid. Certain memories stick out in my head so vividly, you’d swear they happened yesterday. Walking out of my room on Christmas morning and seeing a fully constructed G.I. Joe Cobra base with hidden compartment for a Jet. A brand new bike under the tree with hand brakes instead of pedal breaks.
Seeing the things that Santa left before everyone woke up was like being the first to experience something amazing. Nothing tops though what happened on the morning of 12/25/89. I walked out and saw a plethora of gifts, but not what I wanted most. There wasn’t even a box under the tree in the shape of the box I knew that my one wish came in. I had hope though. I went downstairs to check my stocking in the hope that maybe something was down there. As I made it down the stairs and looked at the TV, there it was, my very own Nintendo, hooked up and ready to go. It was an amazing feeling, and something I’ll never forget. Little did I know though, that, in a few years, I’d never be able to have that feeling the same way ever again.
In December of ’92 I was in 4th grade. I believed in Santa still, but logic was starting to enter my head. Before my 10th birthday, I was able to pressure my Mom’s friend Marybeth Becker, aka the killer of innocence, into telling me the truth. She broke the news to me that, spoiler alert, Santa was not real. Even though I kind of already knew, having it be confirmed was devastating. I didn’t cry, but I definitely was a little teary eyed. Something I believed in my whole life was not real, and Christmas would never be the same. This however was NOT the worst Christmas ever. That would be saved for the following year.
Two years passed, and as Christmas’94 closed in, for the first time ever, I did not write Santa a wish list. I had done one the previous year for the sake of my sister, but by ‘94 I put my foot down and told my mom that I’ll give her a list. I wasn’t going to waste my time writing a whole letter. I was in 5th grade, I was taking 6th grade math, I didn’t have time for such childish time wasting things. There was no Santa bringing me gifts, just Lois and Jack DuPrau (mostly Lois) purchasing things for me. A couple weeks before Christmas this fact brought about a revelation in my mind, “if my parents are the ones buying my gifts, then my gifts are probably INSIDE THE HOUSE!” Who needs to wait for Christmas to find out what I’m getting? I can find out now! Where would they hide gifts though and when will I be able to get the time to look without being caught? Finally, my parents went out for a bit and left me at home, I had free range to become an 11 year old Indiana Jones and find my Ark of The Covenant. After searching a couple places, I made my way to the upper shelves of my mom’s closet, a place I was now tall enough to reach. After moving around some sweaters, I finally found it, and it was glorious. A John Starks jersey, an Upper Deck basketball card set, NHL ’95 for SEGA and the coup-de-gras NBA Live 95! Sega had yet to make a decent NBA game. The previous EA games all had slow game play, but NBA Live was different. The court was at an angle, the speed was more natural, every team was in it, and it even had a starting lineup with music! I had never wanted a game more in my life, and now I knew I was going to get it. All I had to do was wait.
The waiting was not as big of an issue as you might expect. The real issue came on the morning of 12/25/94. I woke up early, almost by habit, on Christmas and as I was about to get out of bed I realized, “what’s the point of getting up early? I already know what I’m getting”. The excitement of being the first to experience something was gone. When I finally got up and started opening gifts, I had to fake excitement because I already knew and didn’t want my parents to know that I had looked. The surprise element was gone. Some things that had made Christmas so great were gone. I had entered the real world, and the real world was not nearly as fun. Still there were plenty of gifts from other people that I did not know I was getting that were great and overall I was blessed with a bounty of gifts. As the remaining packages dwindled though, I realized something was missing. Where the hell was NBA Live 95?!?! I saw it, I had held it, where the heck is it? I had waited patiently to play with something I knew I was getting. Now, it wasn’t there.
As clean up commenced, I went up to my Mom, thanked her for all the gifts and asked her if she was sure there wasn’t anything else. She looked at me confused, and I was forced to spill the beans that I had looked, and I saw the game in her closet. She laughed and told me, “well it looks like that backfired on you.” Then she herself began to wonder where the game was. She looked in her closet, and it wasn’t there. Then she asked my Dad. His response still is a punch in the gut. He had misunderstood my mom and had returned the game! I couldn’t flip out because I didn’t want my younger sister to hear, but I was legitimately losing my mind. The joy of Christmas morning had already dropped by like 50% and now the thing that I wanted most of all had been returned. Then to top it off, my Dad says that he’ll take me to the mall tomorrow and that I can spend MY money and buy the game! How could this have happened? Was it karma coming at me for looking? Was it the Christmas Spirit of Santa punishing me for not believing? I was literally losing my mind like Clark Griswald in Christmas Vacation.
I eventually got the game the next day (it was awesome) and moved on from the disappointments of Christmas ’94. As the next year went by and Christmas ’95 began to approach, I thought about everything that happened the previous year. I realized that not getting the game isn’t what made Christmas less last year, it was the fact that the surprise was gone. The joy of having no clue what I was going to get wasn’t there not because I stopped believing in Santa, but because I spoiled it for myself by looking for the gifts. I made the decision right then to not look that year or any year in the future. If I hadn’t seen NBA Live 95 in my mom’s closet I wouldn’t have been disappointed when I didn’t see it under the tree. I could fake excitement and surprise really well, but you know what is better than faking that, actually being excited and surprised. When I woke up on Christmas ’95, I ran up from my room and saw a mountain bike! Every gift I opened was like a new mystery getting solved. Christmas was never going to be what it was when I believed in Santa, but as long as I didn’t know what was coming it could still get to roughly 90% of what it once was. I would never have the best Christmas again, but I sure as hell was never going to have worst.
Keep on Keepin’ On