To believe, or not to believe.
Last year, we wondered if it was the last Christmas for Santa Claus with Young Daughter. It’s bittersweet, since she’s been a fervent believer since she could recognize the jolly old fellow.
We’ve watched the Polar Express the past few years, hoping it will ease the transition. I tell her Santa Claus is an essential part of Christmas and always will be. As long as you can still hear the bell …
I’ve enthusiastically embraced Santa Claus’s presence in our household. We talk about him. She writes letters. Curious little stuffies — Snowflake and Bongo — are in a new location in our house every morning. These small stuffed characters, an elf and a monkey in a Santa Claus suit, are surely linked to the magic and mystique of Santa Claus.
It’s an opportunity to re-trace the steps of my own childhood, but taking a different path at the crossroads. Back during that time, belief in Santa Claus was optional. He never visited our house. I’ve always attributed it to the 1960s Dr. Spock child psych trends of the day. Of course I had a friend who believed, and I never compromised this.
In my memory, Santa Claus will always be the hardy soul in Santa’s suit walking down the middle of our small street during a Christmas Eve blinding blizzard, which was punctuated by my Mother’s false labor pains, and my Father’s labors to keep our car dug out in case an emergency trip was required.
Back to the present: We’ve reached the point where we suspect Young Daughter is gaming us, stringing us along as to cater to our enjoyment of the Santa experience. She may not be 100% sure, and she’s certainly going through the motions. There was the letter (including a rough draft). We made our annual pilgrimage to the mall. We’ve always gone to the same place because her Mother and I agree the best Santa ever is seated in the throne there.
This year, it wasn’t the same Santa. This one was OK, but he didn’t exude the same merry magic of the throne’s previous occupant.
Young Daughter’s enthusiasm was similarly subdued. She sat on his lap, and told him of the three things she wanted (it’s always three; one is not for her, but to offer help). Santa was impressed with her grown-up third wish — to help out at a soup kitchen or shelter on Christmas Day.
But it appeared to be more relief than excitement when she walked away. Still, walking through Macy’s, she and her Mother both sat down at a table provided for writing letters to Santa, and deposited them in the mailbox. This was at least the third letter, as far as I could tell. In years past, she would have insisted there was one and only one letter to Santa, to avoid confusion, instead of this scattershot approach.
Further fueling our suspicions have been her casual comments about friends who “don’t believe.”
She hasn’t passed judgment on or questioned these assertions, or sought our opinion or counsel.
She knows that the three wishes she makes are always granted. I have no doubt there’ll be a plate of cookies and a mug with egg nog left out on Christmas Eve. In the past, she has told us she heard the reindeer on our roof, and truly believed the morning find of nibbled cookies and sipped nog are evidence of his presence.
I fear she’s in a state of limbo right now. She is convinced he’s not a real person, but she’s not sure how to process that information.
I desperately want her to believe, not as a child, but as an adult who sees Santa as a vital element in the Christmas experience. I’ll always believe in Santa. I don’t need a fat man to squeeze down our non-existent chimney. It’s an essential and critical part of the season. There’s an indescribable joy on the faces of children who are true believers.
This all crystallized for me this morning, when I first viewed this year’s photograph of Daughter sitting in Santa’s lap. She’s the same size as his seated form, no longer fitting in the child’s world and comfort of Santa’s lap. She is dressed as a tween and looks so grown up.
I need to accept she is grown up. My challenge now is to help her believe again in Santa Claus, as I do. Always hear the sound of Santa’s sleigh bell ringing.
I do know one thing that will not change: I’ll be nibbling those cookies and her Mother will sip the nog left out for the jolly fellow. He will always be welcome in our house, no matter how old we all are.