Back then, with less media exposure, in a simpler time, children believed in Santa quite a bit longer. There was still a certain innocence in childhood. We still believed in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the dissonance between the secular and religious aspects of the holidays never seemed to matter.
Our little town was really small. I only remember one stoplight in the entire town, though there might have been others. The walk from the school, past the general store down the hill to our back door wasn't more than a couple blocks. Inside the general store, there was a high shelf near the ceiling and that was where the owners stored all the really exciting toy merchandise. That's where my doll was displayed.
One afternoon, after Thanksgiving, I was taking my usual stroll past the store when I noticed my mother getting into our car. She offered me a ride and instructed me to get into the front seat. But it was too late...I'd already opened the back door to take my customary spot in the back seat. And lo...there was my doll! The big box was stuffed between the seats on the floor, but even I could tell it was my doll!
My mother calmly told me to close the door and get in the front seat. Then she gently explained all about Santa Claus. And since I was the oldest child in my family, she further charged me with the responsibility of keeping the Santa secret from my brothers. And so I did. I have no idea how or when they found out about Santa. But for me, the bride doll I received that year was always inextricably tied to the secret of Santa Claus.
I still have the doll. She's kinda of beat up and her fancy dresses are long gone. One of my projects for the coming year is to crochet a new dress for her. I wonder how old children are now when they no longer believe in Santa--or if they do at all. Certainly, there are children who don't receive any gift, let alone something from Santa. Perhaps, just perhaps, if you have it in your heart, you'll find such a child and give them a gift from your heart. Because every child needs something to believe in.