Monday, December 20, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

Well, the days in the year are dwindling and Christmas is upon us once again. I love Christmas. It is the candle burning in the long, dark night of Winter. It is the song filling an unwanted silence. Christmas is the golden ring in the carousel as we spin through our lives. I can close my eyes to the crass commercialism that Christmas has become, and in the still of my heart I can hear Christmas like a whisper and feel an ageless magic drifting on the breeze in the frosty air. Christmas comes on dove's wings, gently and with peace. I wish it lasted all year long.

My children are grown. I'm sure they have their own ideas of Christmas. I hope it is poetry and light and enchantment. Maybe some of the magic left when they grew up, but I hope enough lingers that they can still feel it and remember what it was like to believe...although, I'm not entirely certain what they believed once upon a time.

I know what I believed...that a fat guy like Santa could not possibly fit down a chimney. I believed that if reindeer could fly faster than Superman (who I knew wasn't real), they still couldn't make it around the world in a single night -- not when they had to stop and let Santa deliver presents at every house along the way -- not to mention the obligatory eating of the cookies and drinking of the milk that most children left out as a token of thanks ( if not outright bribery) for the jolly old elf. I suspected that all those guys in red suits sitting on department store thrones could not be Santa. Also, I thought it would be creepy if Santa really did watch me all year long to ascertain the whole "naughty" and "nice" behavioral aspects of my juvenile tendencies. I mean, what was the deal? Was Santa a Peeping Tom lurking on the periphery, a well-intentioned voyeur? And how well could a fat guy in a fire-engine red suit hide anyway? Sure, it made for a  good story, but, you know, I can't remember ever believing any of it. Ever.

I asked my mother for the truth when I was six years old. She stammered for a moment, then told me it was all magic...that Christmas was magic, and that you had to believe in magic for it to be true. She said I could choose to not believe, but then the magic would be gone and Christmas wouldn't be so much fun anymore. Well, I ask you...where is the fun in doubt? I wasn't one of those kids who could tell themselves, "Okay, this is going to be better all around if you just buy the story." I couldn't play along. The truth was, I didn't want to believe something if it wasn't true.

And so, that Christmas Eve when I was supposed to be blissfully slumbering while visions of sugar plums danced around in my innocent little head, I forced myself to stay awake. Patiently, I waited as those hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning merged. Gradually, the lights went out. The house grew silent. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below. (Sorry, I got carried away). After waiting for what seemed an eternity, when I was sure my parents would be asleep, I crept into the hallway from my room on little cat's feet. The moonlight shone through a window in the front of the house. I had a good view of the living room and the Christmas tree in the corner. But wait...a light was shining into the room from the kitchen! Was Santa in there rummaging around for more cookies and milk? I could hear a sounded like a quiet muttering of expletives. Why would Santa be in my kitchen in the wee hours of Christmas morning cussing in undertones? Silently, I crept into the room and peeked around the corner. This was the moment of truth! Sitting at the kitchen table was not Santa, but my dad! He was trying to put together a Christmas present for me. It was a doll house...a doll house that came with assembly instructions in Japanese and a bunch of parts that didn't fit together. His belly may have been full with eggnog, but his old noggin was filled with frustration. I was jubilant, however. Here was all the proof that I needed.

"Ha!" I jumped into the kitchen, my little finger pointing accusingly at my father. "I knew it!" I shouted. "You're Santa Claus!"

Bad timing, that.

My dad was not amused. It was two in the morning. He was tired. He was miffed. He was busted. "Oh, you think you are so smart, don't you, little girl? Well put your own *&#* doll house together!" That was one of my first lessons on the differences between myth and reality.

My dad was used to my pragmatism, though. And he did love his little girl. He next tried to explain to me that Santa had left the doll house, but was really pressed for time what with having to deliver so many presents to so many boys and girls, so Santa had asked my dad to put it together for me. Yeah, right. I knew better. I also knew better than to say "yeah, right" out loud. For once in my life, I just let it go. It seemed important to my dad. Still, I had seen all that I needed to see. I had figured it out. And, you know, I don't think it made Christmas lose its magic for me. If anything, it was a relief to finally have an answer. Besides, I had realized at that tender age, that the magic of Christmas went much deeper than Santa or presents. (Still, once it was all put together, I did love that dollhouse.)

No surprisingly, the Christmas when my daughter, Jenny, was seven years old, she came to me with the same doubts nagging her. I stood with my back to the wall while little Jenny sternly posed her question. "Is Santa real?" she demanded. I stammered. "And don't lie to me," she insisted, "because I'll find out."

"You want the truth?" I asked her, hesitating only a moment. She nodded. So, I bent down and took her little hand in mine. I searched her eyes. She was her mother's daughter. Nothing but the truth would do. And so I told her no lies. She was satisfied. (Although, I did caution her to not tell the other children).

The next time we were at the mall, though, she still wanted to talk to "Santa." It was kind of like when the Grinch stole Christmas, but all the little Who's joined hands and sang anyway. The magic was still there for her. When Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she smiled and told him she wanted an "oil change." Go figure -- she was kind of a strange child sometimes. Pragmatist that she was, however, she didn't have any thing on her brother. When her brother, Kyle, was three years old, he told Santa he wanted a credit card. Ah, the gift that keeps on giving...

Now, all these years later, my kids will be here for Christmas. My daughter will bring her husband and my son will bring his fiance. I will also get to share the day with my husband, my mom and dad, my sister, brother, and their families. I also plan to visit my mother-in-law (who is home-bound) and take her some food, presents, and lots of Christmas cheer. It will be a wonderful day.

When the day is over, I will step outside. I will look up into that big, dark sky. If it is a clear night, I hope I can see the Milky Way glowing, its light white and dusted with stars. Ah, Christmas! The magic is eternal...


Wonder Turtle Soaps said...

Great post, but I'm pretty sure that Superman IS real. I wish I had thought to ask for a credit card - that would have bought lots and lots of oil changes! Hope you and yours have a merry, magical Christmas and a happy New Year! ♥

Debbie said...

Oh couldn't buy the Santa story, but you wrote letters to Superman every night. Do you still do that, by the way?

Have a Merry Christmas, Jer! (Hope you get that oil change!)

Carol Riggs said...

Ah, here's this post! It didn't show up for me before. As I said, I never told my daughters that Santa was real. He was just another fun story. That solved the prob of lying to them, or disappointing them. They had to keep quiet for kids who believed in Santa, though.
Merry, merry Christmas to ya!

Debbie said...

Yes, Carol -- I'm not sure if my kids ever believed the Santa story. I let them believe whatever they wanted, but when they asked me for the truth I told them. I hope they didn't spoil it for any of their friends who did believe in Santa, though.

Merry Christmas to you, too, Carol!!!

Jan Morrison said...

What is real? That's the more important question I think...
Jan Morrison

Debbie said...

Oh, I know, Jan -- reality is just another concept. (Sometimes an over-rated one, at that!)