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Innocence of childhood makes holidays magical

As far as I'm concerned, Santa Claus is alive and well and delivering presents on Christmas Eve. But I remember the day I found out about the Easter Bunny.

I was 8 years old. It was a Thursday night and I was in the living room, all by myself, watching television and throwing a tennis ball against the far wall. For some reason, one of my throws caromed into my parent's bedroom. Aggravated that I had to get up, I quickly ran in there and looked for the ball. It was nowhere to be found.

I turned to my right and noticed the closet door was open about an inch. Although there was no way a ball could fit through that narrow opening, I took a quick look anyway.

And there they were: five Easter baskets stacked in a pile -- three on the bottom and two on the top -- for me and my four brothers. I stared in disbelief.

My first thought was that my parents must have stolen Easter baskets from the Easter Bunny. Surely the Easter Bunny didn't have time to pick up my tennis ball, load the baskets in the closet and take off. It didn't make sense.

I positioned the closet door exactly how I had found it and ran back to watch television. I knew I had seen something I wasn't supposed to. What did it all mean? Is it possible there was no Easter Bunny? There had to be, because how did those baskets get in the closet?

My older brother, Gary, came in the room and sat next to me. I didn't say a word for what seemed an eternity. And then in my guilt, I posed my hypothetical question, "Can you keep a secret?"

"What's going on?" he said, not giving me a direct answer to my question.

I led Gary back to the bedroom, opened the closet door and showed him the jackpot. Instead of "nice going" and a pat on the back, he dragged me back to the living room and cemented me to the couch. I thought he'd like the idea that I found lots of chocolate we could both dig into immediately, but he only screamed, "You better not tell Mark you found that. He still believes in the Easter Bunny. And stay away from that until Sunday."

Sunday morning arrived and after finding my Easter basket right where somebody "magically" had left it, I started to eat. When I looked at Mark, I saw the joy and spontaneous smile of someone who truly loved what the Easter Bunny had brought.

I wanted to go back in time. I wanted that feeling again. I wanted the mystery and magic back. But my time of innocence was over. I started to question my older brothers about the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the mystery of the missing tennis ball, but they didn't answer. At that moment, I knew it was up to me to find things out for myself.

I've always been alert to keeping the magic alive for my younger nieces and nephews. A few years ago, I shared this story with my 14-year-old niece, Kristie and, possibly, her 10-year-old sister, Michelle. I couldn't tell Michelle until I knew her situation. I walked up to Kristie and whispered in her ear, 'Kristie! I have a story to show you about the Easter Bunny, but I don't want Michelle to see it if she still believes."

No sooner did those words leave my lips did I hear Kristie scream across the room, "Michelle? You don't still believe in the Easter Bunny, do you?"

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