This was a lesson I recalled after participating in a writing workshop led by a friend of mine. She asked us to write about an important lesson we learned in childhood. And this one rose out of my memories after many years.
When I was just a little kid — around four years old, I think — I decided to go all-in on the Great Pumpkin. After watching the “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” Halloween special, I decided he had to be real. So it was all-aboard the Great Pumpkin Train!
Or was I five at the time?
As Linus proclaimed, “Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere.” What six-year-old wouldn’t believe that? I didn’t have a pumpkin patch, but I thought that if I believed hard enough and we had a pumpkin on the front porch, that might be good enough.
That year, I wrote the Great Pumpkin a letter, asking him for a small gift. This way, I could prove to myself that he was real. My dad even suggested I leave out a few cookies for the Great Pumpkin, although my mom suggested that maybe the Great Pumpkin should try eating a few vegetables instead.
I said that would be cannibalism — I was pretty astute for a seven-year-old — and my dad backed me up on the whole cookie thing.
A few days before Halloween, I placed my letter — addressed only to “The Great Pumpkin,” no address — into the mailbox with great care, and raised the flag. It didn’t even need a stamp, my dad said, because the post office would know how to find him.
What? The post office would just deliver mail to the Great Pumpkin for free? He must be pretty important if the post office would take letters to his secret headquarters without a stamp.
But childhood joys don’t last forever because stupid things like logic creep into a child’s world.
A few months later, a couple of kids in my class had said they didn’t believe in Santa Claus anymore. My teacher chewed them out good. She told us the truth about Santa, about how he was real, and visited boys and girls who were good, listened to their parents, and didn’t spread lies about him.
I already knew they were lying because Santa came to all of our houses every year, and we all had stories about the stuff he brought us.
Then I started thinking: The kids in my class didn’t have Great Pumpkin stories like I did. They didn’t talk about how he came to their houses on Halloween night and leave candy. They didn’t tell how they waited up for him or that they sent him a letter.
Of course, I knew better than to say anything to them because they were spiteful little a-holes who would tease me until I retired if I ever said I believed in a magical being from a cartoon.
Talk about important life lessons! I had already learned that children are unfeeling jackwagons who can never be trusted with your vulnerabilities. That can be devastating when you’re eight years old.
So I asked my dad if the Great Pumpkin was real. He looked me in the eye, and told me he was very sorry, but the Great Pumpkin was not real.
Oh, how I cried. I cried like someone had died. He hugged me tight and said it was okay to be sad.
“But what about the letter I mailed?” Surely that would prove that I was right. The post office delivered it, didn’t they?
He said that after I put the letter in the mailbox, he snuck out when I was asleep and retrieved it. The whole didn’t-need-a-stamp-or-address thing suddenly made sense.
Then I had another thought. One I had better never say out loud. What if those other kids in my class were right?
I sniffled and cried as my dad comforted me, but I kept my mouth shut. Because now that I knew the truth about the Great Pumpkin, he wouldn’t show up to my house anymore.
And I realized that the less I said about anything else, the better.
So I said nothing about other holiday visitors who came late at night and left presents for good boys and girls.
As my sister and I got older, we still kept quiet because our little brother was 14 years younger than me, and he still believed. So we still believed. And the gifts kept coming.
Because if I learned one thing, it’s this: If you’re good and you listen to your parents, and you don’t tell lies, good things will continue to come your way.
I know this because Santa told me so in his latest letter.
Photo credit: AliasLibrarian (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)