Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas

The presents are unwrapped and the children's anticipation of so many months has come to fruition.  Now they get to enjoy the fruits of their patience... and for Dennis and me to regret some of the obnoxious gifts that we bought for them.

I can see why Christmas can be a difficult and nostalgic holiday for those who no longer have children in their home.  It's the pure joy and ecstasy in the children's faces that makes standing in the long lines, the gift wrapping, and the sour renditions of Christmas carols on the radio all worth it.  I already know I'm going to ache for these days once they are gone.

Yesterday morning as we were trying to decide on a game plan for the day, we decided to give the kids each a $10 budget and allow them to buy a gift for one of their siblings.  Names were drawn from a bowl, and we trooped over to the mall, and split up into two teams.  Of course we all ended up in the same store- the only toy store in the mall- and spent the entire time trying to select and purchase gifts without the others knowing what we were buying for them.  So much fun.

After we got home, I invited the kids to come into my room to wrap the gift that they had bought for their sibling.  I had Camden and Luke come in together first.  As I pulled out the Christmas wrapping paper, tags, and bows from under my bed, Camden looked down and saw written on one of tags, "To: Calista - From: Santa."  And to make it worse, he recognized that it was in my handwriting.

Almost instantly his eyes filled up with tears and with a shaky voice said, "So Santa isn't real?"  The immediacy of his conclusion told me that the doubt had been lingering on the tip of tongue for quite some time.  I'm not surprised, he's a smart kid.  If anything, I'm surprised he didn't said anything sooner.

Maybe this is the right time to tell him, I thought.

"Camden, do you want to know the truth?  I'll tell you if you want to know," I said.

"Yes, tell me," he said.  Then almost immediately, "No, don't tell me.  I don't want to know if Santa isn't real," he answered with big crocodile tears welling up in his eyes.

I was surprised.  I had no idea that his belief in Santa meant so much to him.  The concept of Santa is one I've long struggled with.  When he was a toddler, I debated whether we were even going to teach him to believe in Santa.  So many children (and adults) have lost the entire meaning of Christmas based on their greed that is fulfilled by the fat man in the red suit, and I've always resented that about this Santa fellow.

But seeing the tears in his eyes and his desperate wish to believe in him, I just couldn't do it.

"Camden, sometimes Santa needs help from parents like us, to help him get the gifts all ready.  Can you imagine how much work it is to give gifts to all the children of the world?  Even a million elves wouldn't be enough.  I just filled out the label for the gift that Santa bought for Calista."

Relief washed over his face followed by an ear-to-ear smile.  "I knew it!  I knew Santa was real!"

And just like that, it was forgotten and we moved on to wrapping the gifts we had bought.

I wonder what it is about this belief in an elusive, magical character who climbs down chimneys, and rides on flying sleighs, that children cling onto so desperately.

And then my mind goes back to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines, and the other atrocities that children are forced to come to terms with in today's world.  It's no wonder they hang on with every ounce of childlike faith that they can muster.  There needs to be an overarching messenger of good and benevolence in their little minds.  Not only in their minds, but mine as well.  I have to believe that there is a greater plan to this all.  Without it, life would be a never ending pit of despair and shattered dreams.  I imagine their understanding of a greater plan will evolve and grow with each passing year as mine has.  But for now, let them fall asleep on Christmas Eve with visions of magic as they listen for the sound of reindeer hooves and bells on the roof.

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