I’m not very good at keeping up with the news. I use my facebook feed as my source of media. My favorite section of the Globe and Mail is not where all the news is situated, but rather the Facts & Arguments essays in the Life section of that paper. I love it so much. There are some very talented writers out there who have some really amazing stories to share. I have always wanted to partake in this column. And last Christmas, I took a deep breath and submitted them a piece from this blog.
I remember sitting in bed, my energy level heightened, my brain feeling like it was on fire, cutting and editing, cutting and editing, until I was under the word count. (Editing, by the way, is really fabulous. It’s amazing how much better and to the point your message gets when you need to edit.) And then I sent it in. And held my breath.
In the end, my piece was not published. And that’s all right. Because I knew that I had sent it in too close to the deadline, and they receive hundreds of submissions. Plus, I also wrote of Santa not being real. So I don’t know if that’s something they would have wanted to publish. But I was always really proud of myself, for having pressed Send. I cut down about 600 words -it was hard. But when I reread it now, I still think I did a good editing job. So I know at least I tried my best.
May more brave deeds come in the New Year.
I have asked myself at different intervals whether I should one day teach my children to believe in Santa Claus. I question it because of how heartbroken I was to discover that he wasn’t real. I was in the third grade at the time, seated with three other little classmates at a round table. We chattered happily as we went about a drawing exercise. Through the quiet hum of classroom activity, I heard two of the classmates sitting with me agree to the fact that Santa wasn’t real. This discussion upset me, and I proceeded to defend this allegation. They looked at me and gave me that snickering expression of children who apparently Know More, and then they asked, how do you know? And I told them boldly, I write letters to Santa, and he responds to them. The boy asked for evidence. He wanted to see these letters that I had received. With this demand, I was at a loss. I knew those letters were at home (one does not forget that Santa wrote back to you), but I couldn’t remember what had become of them. My mother had likely tucked them away in some safe, adult spot. But as I wasn’t sure where that spot was, my confidence wavered, and I had nothing more to say.
At this point, Elizabeth, the third little girl sitting at our table, said something crucial. She had been listening to us the whole time, and then said in a quiet voice, “I believe in the spirit of Christmas.” There was nothing the others could say to that.
I was in awe of her response. It’s that feeling you get when you’re surprised by how mature a person is. This event, though, cracked a belief that I had, thus far, held dearly in my life. Later on that day, I brought this discussion to my mother’s attention. I repeated Elizabeth’s words, earnestly saying that I, too, believed in the “spirit” of Christmas. My mother was so proud of me. Her reaction told me that what my classmates were right. There was no Santa Claus. I was seven years old, and heartbroken.
As a child, my parents had gone to great lengths to bring Santa alive in my life. Discovering that Santa wasn’t real didn’t change any of these traditions. I had a letter from Santa every Christmas morning, the glass of milk was finished, and the cookies half eaten. My dad would sprinkle baby powder on the bottom of his boots and walk softly around the house in them, leaving white footprints on the ground while I was fast asleep. “It’s from the snow in the North Pole,” my mother would say convincingly to me the next morning. I was always delighted to follow Santa’s trail of footprints. This display of make-belief was my parent’s form of participation in the spirit of Christmas.
Recently, I had an encounter that I will always treasure. Walking leisurely through the mall, I was trying to finish a cup of tea before heading back on the road when I found myself nearing the giant Santa throne set up for picture taking. It was still early on in the week, and there weren’t a lot of people around. Suddenly, I saw a red suited figure walking down the hall in my direction. It was Santa. I realized that I had never seen Santa come on or off his throne in all the years that I had stepped through the malls. It then occurred to me that I had also never had a conversation with Santa, one on one. It was a big moment for me as we started to meet in the middle of that hall, and I broke into a huge smile seeing him. He saw my smile and responded by waving at me from a distance like we were old friends. Just as he was about to walk past, I reached out to gently touch him on the arm and said, “Hello Santa. How are you.”
He paused, placed one gloved white hand on top of mine, and then made small talk with me in the middle of the mall. He asked me about my tea, recommended a place that he liked to have his own tea, and then asked me to come take a picture later. I wanted to take a selfie with him, but then thought it best not to. It’s what he charges people for. In that moment, though, a huge aspect of my childhood fancies came back. I was so delighted to have had a personal interaction with him. I’m glad he took his position in that red suit to heart enough that he never stopped to be anyone other than Santa in front of me. The child in me still needed that, still loved the idea of Santa Claus.
So, will I teach my children to believe in Santa? Perhaps what I will do is emphasize the value in his display of merriment- a component that is so ingrained with all that the Christmas season embodies. Santa represents the interaction of gift giving, and I do hope that one day, my children may learn to welcome him alongside the many other realities in life. And, most of all, in the spirit of Christmas, that they will come to embrace the warmth that this figure of love and generosity presents to the world.