Monday, December 5, 2011

Gift of the Magic

It happened one chilly morning in mid-October, the moment when I knew I needed to have The Talk with my oldest son. We were sitting in the warm car, waiting for the school bus to arrive. I asked quite casually, "So what do you think you'll ask Santa for this year?"

Aidan gave me a long, sideways glance as Leo began brainstorming a list of possible ideas. "I know why you are asking us," Aidan said to me. I ignored him, wondering where on earth he was going with this line of thinking. "I know why you're asking about Santa," he repeated. I continued to ignore him, pretending to give my undivided attention to Leo's list, when I heard him mutter, "It's because YOU are the one who buys the Santa gifts." He said it with a tiny hint of anger, and a whole lot of curiosity in his voice, as if he were testing out the theory aloud.

I looked at him sharply and said, "You better watch what you say." He ignored me and said to Leo, "Hey Leo, I know why Mom wants to know what we want Santa to bring us." "Aidan," I said to him pointedly, giving him my Mad Mama look - "You had better be careful what you say."

Leo was blissfully unaware of the conversation between Aidan and me; he was engrossed in a conversation with himself about the possibility of a Real Robot being delivered by Santa.

Aidan looked at me and said, with a hint of defiance, "I know what I want Santa to bring me. I want him to bring me a picture of Rudolph. Because then I'll know for sure."

The bus pulled up and Aidan took off, leaving me to mull over our conversation during much of the day. I had to laugh at the cleverness of his request for a photo - until I realized that Google images plus Photoshop plus a little bit of magic might just yield one awfully realistic Rudolph....

Later that afternoon, I pulled Aidan aside. For The Talk.

"Aidan, I want to tell you a couple of things about Santa Claus. I want you to know that if you have decided not to believe in Santa Claus anymore, that's okay. But I want you to know some things. First, I want to share a story with you from when I was a girl growing up in Grandma and Grandpa's house with Uncle Adam. Do you know how we put out beer and cookies for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer every year on Christmas Eve? Your Uncle Adam and I did the very same thing when we were living with Grandma and Grandpa, even when we were big kids home from college. Every single year, I have laid out cookies for Santa - and then you came along, and you took over for me.

I also want you to know that the best gift that my older brother ever gave me at Christmas was that he let me believe in Santa Claus for as long as I wanted to. He never questioned whether or not Santa Claus was real, he never tried to convince me that he wasn't, and he never teased me or made fun of me for believing in Santa. It was the greatest gift, and I admire him so much for being such a wonderful and kind older brother.

Now I want to tell you what I love the most about Santa. Santa Claus is magic. One year, we had a very sad thing happen in our family. My grandmother died, on Christmas Eve, and it was such a sad Christmas for us. On Christmas night, something magical happened. There was no snow in the forecast, and the sky was very clear and bright. Suddenly, it started to snow - and snow - and snow! We couldn't believe it. Grandpa and Uncle Adam and I went for a long walk in the snow that night, and we kept looking up at the snow-filled sky, dragging our boots to make patterns in the snow, and laughing, because it was so magical. We never expected the snow - and there it was.

Another year, more recently, some other kind of magic happened on Christmas. The father in a family that we know had lost his job, and the mom and dad had no idea how they would buy food that month, let alone Christmas presents. One day, the mom went out to the mailbox - and discovered that someone had sent them a very large gift card for Target. To this day, the family has no idea where that card came from, but not only did they have plenty of food that month, they also had some presents under the tree, too. It felt like magic, to receive such a wonderful gift, especially when they didn't know quite where it came from.

And so, Aidan, I want you to think about these things. I want you to know that I believe in the magic of Santa, because wonderful things happen at this time of year, and often we don't know how they happened or where they came from. And I want you to remember the gift my brother gave me, and I want you to think about if you might want to be the same kind of brother to Pax and Leo that Uncle Adam is to me."

Many weeks later, Aidan and I were shopping at the mall, just the two of us, when we happened upon Jolly Old Saint Nick. Aidan was delighted at the chance for a private conversation with Santa, and was grinning with excitement. Santa invited him to come sit on his lap, but Aidan replied, "No thank you, I gotta bring my brothers back so we can all sit with you together!"

And my final defense of Santa (for I've written about him before, here) is that while the focus in our family will always remain on the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we will forever make room on our mantel for the stockings, as well. Jesus and Santa are not mutually exclusive. Grace, hope, love, light in dark places, peace, joy -- God is our Provider. But the sense of magic, the anonymous giving - those come from Santa.


Susan said...

love this.....Papa Bowes was such a believer in the "Gift of Magic" at Christmas and also of Santa....I'm smiling at thinking of the two of you together when you were a tyke!

gthiele said...

Again, thank you, Anne. We all need to be reminded of the magic of Christmas time.

Linsey said...

Good thing Julian is not sharing Christmas with his cousins this year - a few days ago he ran screeching through a Christmas festival: "SANTA ISN'T REAL! SANTA ISN'T REAL"!