My husband and I have moved into the quiet synchronicity that being married close to twenty years has allowed us. We rarely argue anymore, hardly disagree. Of course there are the little things-whether to eat out or in, if the children should do x, y, or z, but for the most part, we have truly become partners. I would be lying to you if I pretended it was always like this. Trust me when I say there have been knock down drag outs that I am both ashamed and embarrassed of now. But today, today we are on the same page about almost everything.
There is still just one tiny thing we cannot agree on.
That thing is Santa Claus.
C is twelve this year, next week actually and still believes. Yes, yes he does. Last year he saw the ‘Santa paper’ in the closet, recognized his father’s handwriting on the note and asked me tentatively if Santa was real. I could see the fear, hurt, and sadness in his eyes as he posed his question, and it tore me up. How could I crush him? How could I take the magic from him?
I could not. Oh, I did not promise he was real, living in a real house in the North Pole with Mrs. Clause and the elves. But I did tell him the magic was real. That if he wanted to believe, then yes Santa would continue to bring him gifts and yes, Charlie the (damn) elf would still appear December 1 and hide all over the house making sure he behaved. I told him that when you don’t believe, you still get gifts, Christmas is still about our traditions and the things we do as a family and that most things would not change at all. Except for the fact that mom and dad would now bring his gifts. He pondered this, big fat tears welling up in his eyes.
“But I don’t want Charlie to go away.”
I do. Of all things Christmas, that is the one thing I would be happy to let go of. But what could I say?
I reassured him once more that we would continue our traditions, Santa or no.
He looked at me for a long time, and I felt my own tears starting to fall. This was worse than watching him walk onto the bus for the first time, his backpack almost as big as he was, his tiny little smile and chubby hands waving at me from the window of the monstrous yellow bus.
This was worse-for both of us.
Our conversation went on for a few more minutes. I gently tried to lead him to his own conclusion, to his own realization of the truth. The wheels in his head kept spinning.
Finally, I asked him outright.
“Do you want me to tell you yes or no? Real or not?”
He looked at me for just a moment.
“No, “ he said. “And I don’t ever want to talk about this again.”
And so it was. He continued to play with whatever toy he had in front of him. I hugged him as hard as I could and went out to the garage to cry.
This year I wondered if he would let it go on his own. I wondered as the holiday approached if he would come to me and tell me he knew, just as he did with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Matter of fact.
But he did not. And as I tested him in tiny ways, he let me know unequivocally, that Santa still lives.
“Do you want to sit on Santa’s lap?” I asked at the Christmas tree farm. He did. A pinch of embarrassment for being one of the oldest kids to do so, mixed with a spot of excitement because even to me, that Santa looked real.
“Do we need to send Santa a list, and let him know we moved?” I prodded tentatively. We do not, because Santa sees everything he told me. “He knows where we are. “
My husband does not believe I should be continuing this charade. C is twelve, he argues. It is time.
But, why? Why is there a time? Why is there a deadline for magic and childhood? I don’t think there should be. I look at my son and I can still see his doughy feet and little belly. I can still curl up with him spooned into my body and smell his stinky boy smell. Why can’t we savor this to the very last? Why do I have to take the last bit of wonder and surprise away from us both?
I snuggled with him this morning, our daily ritual after the alarm goes off, and thought about other families and what they have told their kids and I would be lying if I did not think about the parents in Ferguson and Cleveland, and all of the other communities where violence and is the norm. I closed my eyes. What do they get to hold on to? What magic is still in their lives? Do you still believe in Santa when you watch your friends gunned down in the street? Do you care if Charlie the Elf knows you’re naughty when you don’t have heat, or enough to eat, or your parents don’t have a job? Is there magic in watching drug deals on the corner, or riots, looting, and protests. As a parent do you just tell them, flat out that there is no Santa, no magic man bringing Christmas, that this is life and all it’s ugliness so get used to it?
The thought makes me cringe, and want to cry once again.
This is why I believe. And this is why I let him believe. There is time enough for his childhood to be filled with tragedy and realities that I cannot take away. There are children that I cannot protect, that I cannot hold and comfort. There are parents that have no choice, no way to bring peace and calm and traditions home to their family this year, or any year. I do, I have a choice. So on this one, I will not concede to my husband and his sensibilities. I will diligently move the Elf, wrap the gifts in ‘Santa paper’, and leave out cookies and milk, and I will hold on to our magic just a little bit longer.