Spoiler alert: the following may cause some to doubt the existence of a certain yearly visitor who travels by sleigh and eats all your cookies.
Now, you’ve been warned.
No one warned me, though.
But suddenly, there was no mention of Santa.
The potential threat of telling my child Santa knew when he was sleeping, when he was awake, when he’d been bad or good no longer carried the weight it once had.
Maybe I should have known when my child stated that was “creepy” one year that something was changing.
In his younger years, I had a list to give Santa before the Halloween candy was gone.
Once, he found the note in the floorboard of my car, where it had fallen out of my bag. He was maybe four at the time and worried if he would get presents or not.
“But you didn’t mail it,” he said forlornly. “How will Santa know what I want?”
“The magic of Christmas,” I said. “He knows already; he’s been watching, remember?”
Cole accepted this as truth, thinking there was indeed a Santa-vision screen in the North Pole, keeping the jolly old elf up to date on what everyone wanted.
One year, he wrote his list and gave it to the Santa on the square, not saying a word to anyone about what he wanted.
“What are we going to do?” I whispered to Lamar.
“I have no idea,” he said. “He said he was only telling the Big Guy what he wanted and no body else.”
When December 25th rolled around, Cole surveyed his loot and shook his head.
“Santa’s slipping; he didn’t get anything I asked for.”
We never knew what the child requested, but I think this may have been the beginning of the end.
“What happens to kids if they stop believing in Santa?” he asked randomly one summer.
It was 190 degrees and my hair was sweating. Why was my child worried about Christmas?
“They get underwear,” I told him.
“Oh,” was all he said.
A few days later, he brought the conversation back up.
“So, you really get underwear if you stop believing in Santa?” he asked.
He nodded, slowly, thinking this through. He was wrestling with a decision or a plot and didn’t like the outcome of either.
“I think I will believe a little bit more,” he said.
Christmas came and went, and he seemed to still enjoy the moments of suspended disbelief, but I wondered if it was true or just for my sake.
Was it selfish for me to want him to continue to believe a little bit longer?
For him to be caught up in the magic of Christmas and the hope that miracles can and do exist – was it wrong for me to want him to hold on to that?
“Do you still believe?” he asked me one day a couple of years later.
The question had caught me off guard as it was yet again, no where near Christmas.
I thought sincerely about his question, knowing this was it. This was probably when he was giving up the world of make-believe.
“Yes, I do,” I said.
“You really believe in Santa?”
He eyed me cautiously. “They say Santa was a real person that went around throwing toys in the windows of poor peoples homes, so their children could have Christmas,” he said. “But he doesn’t do that now, does he?”
“Maybe not him personally,” I said,choosing my words carefully. “But maybe it is someone carrying on the tradition. And I believe in the hope and magic of the season, where people do good for other people. I think that is what Santa,or Saint Nick, was supposed to be about.”
He considered this for a moment.
“If I stop believing, am I going to get underwear this year?” he asked.
And just like that, a few years ago, we shifted from talk of Santa to the practicality of present buying. Gone are the days of writing letters to Santa or leaving out milk and cookies, with carrots for the reindeer. It made me sad to think the days of magic and make-believe were behind us.
“What are you getting the baby for
Christmas?” Mama asked.
Even though he is 14, he is and will always be, the baby.
“He needs a computer,” I said. “And underwear. Lots and lots of underwear.”