Thank You Santa
January 3, 2014
I want to thank you for allowing me to “be” you for the last 5 years. You know how much my son needed to believe in magic, and you provided that for him. I really wrestled with whether I should introduce him to you or not. He was 8 years old his first Christmas with me, and–as you know–by that age I had lost my childhood belief in you. I wondered whether it was morally right to introduce a figure such as yourself to a child who had already lost so much. I didn’t want him to feel abandoned when he lost you. He has always been so savvy, so street-smart, so lacking in imagination, I wondered whether he would even be able to grasp who you were. And so I decided I would let him lead me. I told him a little bit about you, then I let his schoolmates and his tv shows tell him the rest. I figured if he needed you he would grasp on to you.
And grasp on he did! One of my favorite memories will always be Rahul’s reaction to the mounds of presents you left under the tree that first Christmas morning. He knew who you were, but he hadn’t really believed you would visit him. He thought he was too bad. Too insignificant. He hadn’t made a Christmas list and didn’t know what to do with the toy catalogue I had handed him. (You may remember that my sister and I would devour the Sears Catalogue every December, pouring over it for hours, circling things we fancied and adding them to our list…) Once when I read to him at bedtime I finished with a poem about a little girl wishing on a star for her Christmas wish–a horse. I asked Rahul whether there was anything in particular he would wish for as a Christmas present. He didn’t even understand my question. After much explanation and prodding he squeaked out, “A remote controlled car?” I smiled to myself, because the very car he wanted was at that moment hiding in my closet:)
That first Christmas Eve I snuck around hearing Mission Impossible music in my head while he slept 6 feet away from the Christmas tree. And in the morning as he climbed down from his loft bed he could barely comprehend what he was seeing! Presents! Tons of them, all for him! His first comment was, “I must have been a very good boy!” That is what it meant to him: validation. You taught him that he was good.
And over the years, despite his classmates and friends outgrowing their belief in you, Rahul stood firm. The child with no imagination and very little faith in anything, believed wholeheartedly in you. He loved your letters most of all. He held them as some of his most prized possessions, asking me throughout the year to pull them out so he could re-read them. Knowing that you were proud of him gave him strength and helped him to be proud of himself.
I knew it was going to be tough for him to hear the full truth about you, but I was prepared when he finally asked for the whole truth this year. Initially, the news was devastating to him. Despite being 13 years old, Rahul was a True Believer. He looked at me in complete shock and shut down, except to ask me for your most recent letter to him. He spent the night crying on that letter, his tears doing their best to wash away your words. All the next day he wrestled with disappointment, anger, embarrassment. He kept saying that you were a lie. That I had lied to him about you. And I insisted that I had not lied. That you were real, just not what he thought you were. I explained to him how as a parent I had the amazing opportunity to play the role of Santa. To become you. I explained how a myth and a lie are very different things. One is told in love, the other in malice. And after hours and hours of talking through his feelings, I finally read him the “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” letter. And that did it. That encompassed everything I was trying to explain to him and it made sense to him. After 24 hours of declaring that we would not celebrate Christmas this year, he finally smiled and said, “OK. Christmas is back on.”
And it was different this year for him. Less magical. Its always difficult that first year. Its hard for us until we learn to become you, to bring magic to others and receive a different type of magic in return. Please help us all to embody you as we believe in one another and celebrate their victories.
In the meantime, thank you for giving Rahul something no one else could: belief in himself.