Every year of my life, including this year I suspect, my Mom has put presents under the Christmas tree marked, ‘From: Santa’. Even long after I found out the truth about Kris Kringle, every year he still finds a way to make an appearance for Christmas.
One year I had asked my mom in true teenage fashion, “Uh, mom…why the presents from Santa? You do know he isn’t real right?” She explained to me that Santa is as real as we believe him to be. That while the proverbial reason for the season lies away in a manager with no crib for his bed, Santa remains as much a part of the season as a constant loop of Andy Williams and Perry Cuomo songs. Without him on Christmas morning, the magic of the day is diminished. I shrugged my shoulders, figured my Mom was nuts, and went about my Christmases.
It wasn’t until my first daughter was born did I realize my Mom was not nuts and what she had told me had merit (I had similar revelations about the legitimacy of my Mom’s words after I graduated college. I have yet to admit to all of it though). On her first Christmas, under our tree, had been gifts marked From: Santa. All through the early years, when chewing on the box was more interesting to her than what was actually in the box, Santa had brought Hannah presents. Both she and her sister have had presents wrapped and marked from Santa. Both believed whole-heartedly he came every December, at the cookies and milk we left out for him, and laid out presents on our floor for them. Santa has been as much a part of this season for them as he was for me when I was their age. Every Christmas morning, as they buzz saw through their gifts, when they got to Santa’s gifts, something else happened. It was as if those presents were more special than the ones marked From: Mommy and Daddy. You could see the magic of the morning reflecting in their eyes. It was as if they knew all their hard work being good throughout the year had paid off (even if being ‘good’ didn’t start exactly on January 1st). There was always something different, in a good way, about the presents he “brought” to them.
But this year will mark the first year my oldest daughter knows there is no Santa. Earlier this year, she found out the truth (it was like she got her hands on classified information from the CIA). Since she found out, any time the topic of Christmas or Santa came up, Hannah gave me a knowing wink to let me know she knows.
And now with Christmas barreling towards us like a runaway freight train, I am left wondering how Hannah will take the idea of knowing I was the one who ate the cookies and milk she and her sister left out? Will that gleam in her eye, the one she used to get when she opened her presents from Santa, still be there? Will she still feel the same way or just see Christmas as just another day (another day filled with presents and cookies for breakfast)?
Hannah is 10 and as much as she believes her childhood is in her rearview mirror I don’t want Christmas to lack the spirit and wonder that up until this year has come from Santa Claus. She has plenty of time to be an angst ridden teenager and skeptical young adult. For now, she should be a kid who still believes in the magic of the day.
That’s where I come in.
Since she has been born, I have been able to amaze my daughter with my powers of ‘Dad’. Whether it has been magically disconnecting my thumb from my hand or showing no fear in the face of an attacking yellow jacket, I have been able to ignite the fire of amazement in my daughter’s eyes.
It is with this power I will call on this Christmas. I want to make sure Hannah feels the same way this year as she did last year and the 8 other years before that (even when she was chewing on the cardboard boxes). I knew the day would come when Hannah found out Santa isn’t as real as she thought him to be, but I never want the day to come when I can’t see the gleam in her eye from the magic of the day. I want her to know Santa can be as real as she wants him to be and if she ever has doubts, all she will need to do is look under the Christmas tree. Because sitting underneath the tree will be her gifts, From: Santa.