At Easter, my son told us that the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus were not real. I’m sure he had heard it from his school friends, but he missed the part about your parents being the lead actor in those starring roles. I shrugged it off as best I could and decided that I’d still pretend there was Santa. A little bit of extra magic never hurt anyone. After the Sandy Hook massacre, I knew that we’d keep Santa around for another year at least. Maybe nest year, I’ll clue him in on the fun and let him help me play Santa to his younger siblings.
But for this Christmas… this Christmas, I was expecting to hear that Santa wasn’t real. We never made it to the mall to take a photo with what my son already considers an imposter. He figured that out around the age of four, when he proclaimed that the old men were pretending to be Santa… but that they pass on your wish lists to the real man in charge. Those were the years when I could still sway him to make his gift from Santa something that I had already purchased. Now his wants go beyond a football or baseball glove…. he wants gadgets that start with a lower case i and every Lego set ever known to man.
This Christmas I was prepared to have the real talk about Santa. I was prepared to explain that, while Santa doesn’t really come down our chimney or bring all those presents, Santa is very much real. He’s like the Mickey Mouse of Christmas. My son fully understands that there are real people behind those Disneyland characters… but it doesn’t make it any less magical knowing that some dude named Mark is playing Mickey Mouse. That’s what Santa does for Christmas. He lets us use our imaginations and believe in something that we never get to touch with our own hands or see with our own eyes. Having the ability to believe in something without being able to use our five senses is extremely important. It’s necessary to have faith, to have pride, to believe in ourselves and others.
On Christmas morning, as my eight (and a half… the half is very, very important to someone who is eight and a half) year old son opened a gift. It was the book he wanted from the book fair at school, but didn’t have enough money to purchase. I had snuck back into the fair the next day and bought the book without him knowing. As he took a look, he smiled and said…
“Santa remembered! He knew I wanted this book! I didn’t even put it on my list and he remembered!”
And my heart said a little prayer of thanks to get one more Christmas from seeing that wonder, that amazement, that belief.