My mother's grandfather was in vaudeville. Every Christmas her Pappy perpetuated the Santa ruse with aplomb. My mom was a champion of truth and justice from a young age. Each year she intuited that something was afoot, that Santa's lap was very reminiscent of another she was used to bounce upon, and inquired after the resemblance. Every year she was assured that the likeness was a coincidence, assured of northern poles, flying game, and the preposterous notion that everyone who got presents deserved them. "But reindeer don't fly!" she'd protest, and the family would abet the myth with unanimous declarations of hoofsteps on the roof before rolling their eyes and murmuring to one another, "Pamela's being difficult again."
The united front of the Christmas story, the frustration of knowing in every way that something could not be and was not true when every adult asserted its veracity was a torture for my practical, detrimentally bright, middle child mom. So when I was two she told me without apologies that there was no Santa. I burst into tears, told her she'd ruined my life and that I would never forgive her.
But when I'd recovered, we baked Santa cookies that on Christmas morning were reduced to crumbs, some in the ashy footprints that led from the fireplace to the sideboard where the treats had been left. Every season I'd wear my finest to John Wannamaker and wait in the line that wound through the cottony North Pole and sit on Santa's lap in his pink leather throne and have my photo taken. It turned out that pretending was no less fun than knowing. In fact, it was more fun. There was a giddy pleasure in knowing the rules, playing the game, a game like "house," when all along there was no pressure because nothing was real.
But today, Christmas day, while sitting around the tree swapping like stories with family and guests I discovered that the joy I took in knowingly participating in the farce was peculiar. I am an actress. And not of the method variety. I don't dream of being things. I dream of pretending to be things. The faint tickle of the "meta" gives me inordinate pleasure. Being two things at once, things that are fundamentally in opposition - truth and fiction - are reconciled within me and therein lies my greatest glee.
People say that to have Christmas every day would spoil its mirth. But for a performer, every day is Christmas.