Saturday, December 19, 2015

Santa Magic: The Adult Years by Stuart R. West

One click away from ridiculousness.

I remember the thrill of waking up on Christmas morning. The magic of a big man in a sleigh, sneaking into your house at night (in a non-threatening way, of course!), bringing good will and joy.  And toys, can’t forget the toys. There always seemed to be a strange lingering magic dust in the air, a smoke screen of wonder blurring the blinking Christmas tree lights.

When you’re young, it’s by far the best part of Christmas. No matter what anyone tells you.

But as a child, when I began to question the whole Santa Claus thing (“But…how can Santa be at this mall, when he’s at Steve’s Shoe Shack at the same time?”), realizing the absolute impossibility of it all, a part of my childhood went into hibernation. It didn’t die, just crawled into a cave for a long nap. 

My parents were hardcore about the myth of Santa Claus. Even kept it up while I was in college. No one was fooling anyone and we all knew it. But the dumber you played, the longer you indulged in the game, the more likely you’d get cool gifts. One year, my brother and I found the “secret Santa stash” in the basement, unwrapped the presents, oohed and ahhed over them. Sealed the presents shut again. Okay, fine, not very magical, but we were know-it-all, “worldly” kids (or so we thought).

Finally, we let the cat out of the bag, let my parents off the hook. Told them to cut it out. There is no Santa Claus. Hard to believe, but my mother looked sad at our revelation. And that’s when socks and underwear became the norm as gifts.

I suppose I don’t blame my mom, not really. Once your own childhood thrill is gone, you live vicariously through your children’s excitement. The circle of life.

Seeing Christmas through the eyes of my young daughter reawakened my hibernating inner child.
I lived a double life: Dad and Santa. And I thrived on it. I loved watching my daughter sit next to the tree amidst an avalanche of colorfully wrapped gifts.  Her eyes lit up as she opened her presents, wondering how the Big Man in Red knew what she wanted. (And this particular “Big Man in Red” went to a lot of effort searching for what my daughter asked for. Always the hottest, hardest to find toys. Always. I have lots of war-torn Christmas stories. But that’s a tale for another time.).

It was all worth it.

But all good things come to an end (a rather cynical saying my mother used to tell me).

One day, while pushing my daughter on the back-yard swing set (the same swing set we had the dreaded sex talk on a year or so later), she said, “Dad?”


“Is Santa real? Or is he, like, parents making him up and stuff? You know, sneaking around and putting gifts under the tree. Pretending.”

A quandary. I always taught her not to lie. Yet…I wanted to keep the mythology alive; if not for her, than for me. I hemmed and hawed, finally said, “Do you believe he’s real?”

“I guess.” Not really.

“Well, if you believe he’s real, then he is. Merry Christmas!” I ran quick interference, shouting, over-zealously hugging, cheek-kissing. The works. Anything to avoid telling her the truth.

Yet, I could tell, just by the way she forlornly nodded, she didn’t buy into my non-answer. The magic had dissipated, the Santa dust drifting away into an invisible cloud.

We played the game for a few more years. But we both knew the jig was up. Knowing winks were shared; smart-alecky comments were dropped whenever the mythical Man in Red came up.

A sad time, a rite of passage. Not only for children, but also for parents.

Last year, my youngest niece quit believing in Santa. Over Christmas dinner, I asked her why.

“I mean, the whole thing was kinda weird,” she explained. “How Santa could hit all the houses in the world in one night. Yeah, right.” (Her examination of the impossibilities of the Easter Bunny was even better.)

Laughter ensued. But it foretold the end of Santa magic for our family.

But my now grown daughter brought me back in.



“Do you believe in Santa?”

I hugged her. “You know I do.”

Bring on the next generation! 

Happy holidays, everyone!