Growing up with liberal Unitarian parents in a conservative Catholic town during the '60s and '70s was never less than interesting. My pro-choice mom argued with rabid pro-lifers in the days before Roe v. Wade; my dad grew the first beard our northern Michigan town had seen since the pioneer era. The holiday season, in particular, brought out the differences between my quirky family and the rest of our stick-up-the-butt community. My brother and sister and I had to endure a mother who baked anatomically correct gingerbread men and a father who streaked naked outside our house every New Year's Eve. My poor adolescent sister was mortified when our dad built a snow-woman with big boobs and cherries for nipples in our front yard. (However, the kids on the school bus were delighted.) Every year we had a Christmas "tree" consisting of a mostly barren branch plucked off a nearby evergreen, which our biologist father insisted was the most economical and environmentally correct way to go.
But nothing beats the repercussions of my discovery that Santa Claus did not exist. Upon hearing my dad's characteristically ear-splitting sneeze blaring out late one Christmas Eve, I peered down the stairs to find my father laying gifts under the tree. I was five years old and I already knew that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were fabrications, but after this new discovery, I even began to wonder about God. After all, my parents never mentioned him. Upon quizzing Mom and Dad about the Almighty and receiving rather vague replies, I decided that God must be just like Santa Claus and his ilk: an imaginary being that parents made up to amuse their children.
I then proceeded to tell my friends that their parents were deceiving them about God, exactly the same way they were pulling the wool over their eyes about Santa Claus. Needless to say, this didn't go over too well among the kids' parents. The shit really hit the fan, though, when I later converted my best friend to a new religion I had invented. (It consisted of a goddess and a god, named "La Godha" and "El Gode," respectively, after the origins of the word "good" in the dictionary. These beneficent deities presided over a beautiful "Sparkle Planet" with shiny purple grass and brilliant teal-green skies.) But my buddy's devoutly Catholic mother was able to convince her daughter of the gravity of her heresy, and my church reverted to its one-person congregation.