My oldest nephew, Bradley, started dating a really nice girl while my husband and I were living in Ecuador. This past Thanksgiving was the first opportunity I had to spend any time with her since we moved back to the states.

Megan is a smart and focused college girl who wants to be a principal in an elementary school one day. She’s forward-thinking and practical. She’s the kind of girl who doesn’t believe in fairytales.

While I was on the floor with the ‘kids’ after dinner, I noticed the infamous “elf” hanging out on the proverbial shelf in the den. I asked my two nephews if they missed having the elf be part of their Christmastime rituals, and they laughed. Then Bradley said, “Yeah, I knew Santa wasn’t real, but I thought the elf was.”

His younger brother, Jake, chimed in and agreed that although he didn’t believe in Santa, he believed in that elf. I looked at Megan, and she said incredulously, “It’s true. They didn’t believe in Santa Claus but they totally believed in the Elf.” She and I shared a collective eye roll.

“You believed the elf was real?” I asked the boys. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Jake said, “Yeah, and he could fly.” AND HE COULD FLY!

I needed a minute to wrap my head around that bit of information. How can a kid not believe in Santa Clause yet believe in a skinny, stuffed toy that parents use to blackmail their children into being good for a few weeks at the end of the year?

That got me to thinking about how we perceive what’s real and what isn’t. Let’s face it, we all have our moments of disillusionment, right?

I don’t remember a time when I truly believed in Santa (sorry, Mom). I just couldn’t believe a man that round could make it around the world in one night. There was NO WAY that chubby dude was going to fit down our small chimney. What about my friends who didn’t have a chimney? And flying reindeer? I didn’t buy it. I mean, where would they park? And why did some children come back to school in January talking about the gazillion toys they got from Santa when some kids only got one or two? And Santa never wrapped the presents he left under our tree, but he wrapped the presents he left at my best friend’s house. What was up with that?

No, it just didn’t add up. My super powers of reason were honed at an early age. Santa definitely didn’t exist.

But the tooth fairy? She was real, of course.

My young brain allowed me to believe in a winged, sparkly fairy who spent her time flitting around the bedrooms of sleeping, snaggletooth tots when it knew for sure Santa was an illusion. A story. A myth. A fun myth, sure, but still a myth.

Sitting on the floor with those young adults I realized that none of us are immune to this lopsided way of thinking. Grown-ups are also susceptible to lapses in logic. We fall for scams. We stay in relationships that have no chance of survival. We trust lying politicians. We believe what we want to believe, even when reason would tell us otherwise. I guess this is part of being human, no matter what our age is.

Megan and I laughed at the boys, and they were good sports about it. They thought their childhood elf vs. Santa logic was funny and ridiculous, too. Seems it’s easy to recognize the truth when it’s far behind us, like the time an elf was real and Santa was not.

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