My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Yes, Dusty, There Is A Santa Claus

2004-12-15
On Saturday, Dusty, Red and I met Grandma at the mall for the annual Santa picture. Dusty was quite excited and was ready to ask for a Sagwa stuffed animal when her cue came. She dressed in her yellow Maisie outfit (a sight to behold: yellow wide wale corduroy pants and matching top with furry white trim at neck and cuffs; Maisie riding her alligator friend embroidered on the front) and insisted that Red wear yellow, too. So, Red wore a yellow footie outfit – one of the few pieces of clothing that still fits her. The line was mercifully short; Santa was perfect – a nice comfortable old gent unlike some who seem, well, creepy; the kids both looked into the camera at the same time – Red was too young to suddenly freak out like a number of older babies ahead of us; Dusty got too shy to ask for Sagwa so I had to act as interpreter; we paid and left for the grocery store. Mission accomplished.

On Monday, I bought a frame with three places for photos so we could display the first three Dusty-and-Santa pictures. We all gazed happily at Dusty on Santa’s lap -- at 13 months, at 2 years old, at 3. This year’s is tacked to the board in the kitchen awaiting another frame. “Santa looks different here.” Dusty says. Shit. Shitshitshit. The first two years, we’d visited the same Santa. Then, we moved and we were too far from Downtown Santa. We went to see Mall Santa. I do not normally think on my feet but here’s what I managed, “Well, sweetie, so do you! Look how much you’ve grown! Look how little you were then.” Save! I was quite proud of myself and Dusty didn’t think anymore about it.

Say what you will, but I am a Believer. I love Santa. The whole idea of someone giving you stuff just because. Because you’re a kid, because you need and expect magic, because it’s a place to start when you talk about generosity and altruism. Why people think they are lying to their kids when they reply, “Yes,” to the question, “Is Santa real?” I don’t know. He’s as real as anything else. Just because you can’t see wind, you know it’s real. You can see the effect it has on tree limbs and leaves that scoot down the sidewalk, you can feel it on your face and in your hair. It’s invisible but real. Like a smell. You can’t see an odor, even if you can see its source. Why can’t Santa exist in the same way? He’s invisible but real. Even if he has to sometimes work through parents or the Salvation Army, he is real. Isn’t that how religion works? Faith in the unseen, the unproven?

Now, I’m generally a realist. Practical-minded to a fault. Anything that smacks of religion/spiritualism/superstition (though I HAVE seen ghosts) rolls off my back as if I was coated in God-deflecting grease. But Santa? Sorry. I won’t burst my daughter’s bubble. If she stumbles on the “truth” (whatever that is) on her own, I’m still going to insist that Santa – in whatever form he needs to take – is real. As real as love and hope and happiness. So there. What did Jesus ever do for me? He certainly didn’t bring me the gerbil I asked for (who later bit me and was replaced with a less abuse-adverse one). He certainly isn’t going to put Sagwa under the tree.

And, I don’t mean to be all materialistic about it. It’s not about stuff, it’s about wishes and magic and love and thoughtfulness. It’s about there being some greater force in the universe (oops—did I say that?) that cares, that wants children to be happy. Not necessarily Gameboy-happy but at least new-socks-happy (and, yes, Dusty loves things like new socks and underwear! Aren’t I lucky?). Who’s to say it’s not Santa that drives adults to donate money to Christmas Mother funds and the Salvation Army who then fulfill children’s wishes for warm clothes, a stuffed animal, a hot meal? He is the embodiment of that altruistic need to spread the wealth around, to give to those who have nothing, to do something as simple as spread joy, to dampen cynicism. Santa’s in your heart long after you’ve stopped believing. He’s part of what makes us human.

Happy Holidays!

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10:00 a.m. ::
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