My first year of school brought new knowledge every day. My accomplishments loomed large in my own mind as I learned to put together what I saw and heard to form new conclusions.
On Christmas morning, my two sisters and I bounced out of bed and headed for the Christmas tree. It stood in the middle of the living room adorned with red and green construction paper chains and sweet gum balls wrapped in tin foil we had peeled from chewing gum wrappers. We saved the wrappers all year and competed to peel the tin foil off from the backing in one piece without a tear.
Daddy taught fifth and sixth grade and served as principal of the six-grade, three-teacher elementary school in addition to being pastor of the village church. The extra income made for a more abundant Christmas than usual. In addition to our personal gifts, there was a chalkboard on an easel for the three of us to share. One side was solid black. The other was marked off in a grid with tiny numbers for each square across the top and left side. On this side was a chalk picture of Santa Claus. Dangling below was a little book.
After we had begun to play with our gifts, I returned to the chalkboard. I looked at the little book which had pictures with gridlines. By following the pattern numbers, I could draw the pictures on the chalkboard.
As I turned a page, I was startled to see the same picture of Santa that was on the board. My first grade logic kicked in. “If Santa was so smart, why did he need a pattern to draw his own picture? And, if he didn’t do it, who did?”
I saw Mama watching me. I said, “You drew this picture, didn’t you? There’s not really a Santa Claus, is there?” After extracting a promise not to tell the other girls, Mama confirmed my suspicions. Since they were four and two years old, she thought they needed to believe a bit longer.
Rather than being disappointed, I was proud – proud to have figured it out myself, and proud to be old enough to share a secret my sisters were too young to know.