Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Tomorrow night, Emilia will put out cookies and milk and a handwritten note for the red-suited gentleman who will visit our house - ingress through the chimney - and leave...
My mother was and still is an inveterate teller of tall tales, especially in conversation with children. She delights in the wide-eyed fascination of children with all things fantastic, and decided very early in her career as a mother that it was part of her job to keep the eyes of her own children and those of any children who accidentally wandered into range of hearing as wide as possible.
Accordingly, I grew up in a home in which it seemed entirely possible that there were sea creatures living in the plumbing and gnomes hiding in the closets. There were fairies and elves and imps and other magical creatures in the woods behind our house, and they lived in harmony with the animals there – the squirrels and birds that I saw every day, and the raccoons and skunks that I saw less often but knew well from the tracks in our backyard, tracks that my mother was very careful to point out and explain as evidence of the late-night forest creature moondances that occurred a few times each month. I knew that the forest creatures maintained harmony in their community through the frequent town-hall meetings that they held in a mossy stump – I knew this because my mother showed me exactly where they all sat during these meetings and held up various broken twigs and branches (used as benches) as evidence. I knew that I should never, ever pick toadstools, because if I did so I would be destroying the shelter of the littlest creatures of the forest.
I also knew that my sister and I came from a cabbage patch, and that if we unscrewed our bellybuttons, our bums would fall off. When I got old enough to start doubting these tales, I would confront my mother upon each telling: are you telling me a story?
Of course I am, my darling, she’d reply. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not telling you the truth.