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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
“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
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