Thursday, December 3, 2015
I don’t remember how old I was when I stopped believing in Santa Claus. I do remember seeing gifts addressed to me under our Christmas tree that read, “To: Mary, From: Santa” in handwriting that was distinctively my dad’s. I grew up with an older brother that surely had something to do with my skepticism where St. Nick is concerned.
My son, Michael, was pretty young when he found out. The conversation went something like this:
“Mom, you know how you told me that magic isn’t real?”
“Yes. Magic is not real, it’s pretend.”
“Well, you also told me that Santa delivers all those presents to all the kids by using magic.”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“So, if magic isn’t real, and Santa uses magic, does that mean that Santa isn’t real, too?”
“Let’s just keep this secret between us.”
He was around four at the time, and he felt pretty important being “in” on the biggest secret of his life. Since then, he’s had fun talking about Santa with younger children. Sometimes, though I know he doesn’t believe, I still feel as though he gets caught up in the magic of the season.
I had the privilege last week of photographing the man himself at the Christmas in the Sky event at Longview Lake. There, much like in the movie Polar Express, Santa gave the first gift of Christmas, a shiny bell, to a little girl from the Dream Factory. Watching the delight on Hannah’s face, and on the faces of the hundreds of children there to see Santa, I couldn’t help but feel the true spirit of Christmas.
A few days later, I ran into Santa, the same Santa I saw and photographed last week. He’s the real deal: an authentic white beard, rosy cheeks and a soft belly. I introduced myself to him and with a twinkle in his eye and a deep-belly laugh, he said, “Well, Mary, it’s really nice to see you again, though I noticed you don’t write anymore. Have a Merry Christmas.”
Like a little kid, my immediate thought was, “he knows!” He knows I haven’t written to him since I was a girl, and he misses my letters! My face turned red and I struggled to speak, apologizing for not writing. I suppose even if I don’t completely believe, the spirit of Christmas can still be just as magical as when I was small.
So, I’ll be writing that letter this year. I won’t be asking for Barbies or a new dress or a bigger, better bicycle. This year, I’ll ask Santa to keep the spirit alive in all of us, no matter how old we get or when we first stopped believing.