Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Repeat Performance

(Republished from last year.  I hope you liked it then as much as I did.... and still do.)

We were sitting on the steps in the main hallway of Annie's Washington manse, watching the girls play in their fantasy land, when Big Cuter asked the question.

Not "How does the seed get into the egg, Mom?" No, that happened just before the Fullerton exit on Lake Shore Drive in a raging snowstorm on barely plowed roads when we were already 15 minutes late and traffic wasn't moving.

Peacefully watching the girls, the sunshine through the magnificent beveled windows making rainbows which I thought we were busily counting, out of his 7 year old mouth came this:
"Santa's not really real, is he, Mom?"
He noted my pause, and, ever the adoring big brother, his face took on a serious cast as he looked over at his little sister and reassured me:  
"Don't worry. I won't tell her. She really believes he's real."
What followed was a precise analysis, continent by continent, time zone by time zone, of the why-nots of Santa's voyage. He was quietly demolishing every possible rational explanation for his existence, yet he was still insistent that we not destroy his sister's illusion.
"She loves Santa, Mom. I mean really loves him."
I remember the intensity with which he informed me of that fact. It moves me still. I knew right then that he'd always be there for her, no matter how silly she might be.

She was 10 or 11 when the subject of "when you stopped believing in Santa" became acceptable conversation amongst the girls in the back of the Audi on the way to tennis lessons. The Little Cuter announced
"Of course there's a Santa Claus!" 
and the case was closed. I never heard anyone mention it again in her presence. No mothers called to ask me if it were true. She never said that anyone teased her about it. She knew it as a fact, and, somehow, within her 4th or 5th grade universe, that made it inviolable.

Was she so powerful that no one dared to defy her? Perhaps. Were they surprised that one of them was still stuck in child-like wonder and struck dumb at the concept? Unlikely. I like to think that Santa himself had something to do with it.

Because what I said to the Big Cuter, after his rationalizations had come to an end, was that they were all true but they were all meaningless. Because the reality is that Santa is joy and love and family and caring and friends and warmth and giving and thanking and everyone ought to believe in that. He bought it then, and he buys it now.... at 27.

The Little Cuter is flying home tonight and the holiday can't start without her. Just before we all go to bed, it's her job to read The Nativity out loud. We revel in the gorgeous illustrations as we laugh at Joseph pushing Mary up onto the ass

and giggle at the anatomically correct baby Jesus

and smile at each other as we remember that births and beginnings are wondrous things and that some traditions never get old...... even though we do. Every year is a reprise of the last, and each one is full of love.

Then we each grab a copy of "the Night Before Christmas"

and listen as she grins her way through it. Chiming in on "To all a GOOD NIGHT!" we'll hug and go off to dream of sugarplums dancing in our heads.

I hope she looks out the window of the plane as they reach their cruising altitude. I'm sure that Santa will point, wink and wave.

from Robert Sabuda's The Night Before Christmas Pop-Up Book

The Nativity is illustrated by Julie Vivas, published by Gulliver Books/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich with text from the King James Bible


  1. I have an uncle in his seventies who has never, ever admitted to knowing that Santa isn't real. He's a judge. I think that says a ton.

    At a card shop this year, I found a Night Before Christmas book that records my reading. I've sent it to my grandson, who is almost four. My daughter says she will give the book to him Christmas Eve, and, if I am lucky, we'll visit by webcam that night, too.

    I recall your Christmas story. I loved it then and I love it now.

  2. I'm going to love the image of His Excellence listening to you on Christmas Eve.

    Happy Holiday, bff.


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