We all think we know what makes Christmas magical. And we’re all right, it’s personal and it’s ephemeral. If we’re lucky, we carry the magic with us into the new year and into adulthood. When the magic comes unannounced and unexpected, it’s much more powerful. This year the magic found me as I waited on line at the Dollar Tree.
I like to have a theme for Christmas because it makes the gifting, more specifically “the shopping”, easier for me. One year was “make-it, bake-it, or regift-it”. Another year we had a blanket Christmas. Last year it was socks. This year, it’s hot cocoa. I headed to the Dollar Tree, my second trip in as many days, to purchase more supplies.
Waiting on line after a successful speed-shopping expedition, at which I am an expert, can be a let down, but on this day I got an my first taste of that Christmas magic. Standing there with a basket full of cocoa bar essentials I realized I forgot something and stepped out of line.
When I returned to the line, of which now there was only one, the length of it had grown exponentially, and I reinserted myself behind a young man and his mother. The young man was about 8 years old with big, brown eyes. He turned toward me and said “how is your day going?” I was surprised to say the least. It’s not often you run into an 8 year-old boy practicing the gift of small talk with a 60-something year old woman. I made a brief, but distracted reply to his question and went back to thinking about my to-do list.
The question every parent hates to hear
Is Santa Claus real? We all stumble and mumble when we hear this question because the truth is the beginning of the end of childhood.
Out of the blue
Moments later, the young man gestures for me to come down to his level so he can whisper in my ear, and he shared the following statement with me, “did you know Santa’s not real”? I wasn’t prepared to hear that.
Was he looking for me to confirm or deny this new found knowledge? But I made a conscience decision in that moment to try and preserve the magic of Santa Claus for him, for one more year.
I had a bit of wiggle room about the direction I could take with my response. I could confirm what he said to me or I could try and change his mind. I chose the latter, because let’s face it, it’s a more interesting story than the truth. I’ll leave the truth about Santa and the birds and the bees to the mother’s and the father’s.
My story of Christmas magic
I begin to frame my response to this earnest young man. I did what I had to do in that moment, because when you get right down to it, all you have is a life of moments. I could give an answer without telling him an outright lie, “yes, Santa is real if you believe”, I said.
Set the stage
As he looked up at me with those big, brown eyes, I launched into the telling of my most precious childhood Christmas memory, but first let me set the stage for you. Imagine if you will,
- the era is the late 1960’s, maybe 1966 or 1967
- a two-bedroom apartment with a shotgun hall running from front to back
- “Christmas with the Chipmunks” album playing on the record player for the millionth time
- family scattered around the living room, and
- finally our dog, King, secured in the back bedroom, supposedly to keep him out of the way in the small apartment, but strategically placed to warm of us our Christmas “visitor”.
I remember my dad asking my brother and me, “do you hear the sleigh bells and the stomping of reindeer feet on the roof?” Of course we said “yes”. We were still young enough to believe, although I think I was on the edge of learning the “truth”. The conversation continued this way for a few more minutes, the excitement building as we waited for the Jolly Old Elf himself to make his Christmas Eve appearance in our home.
As if on cue, King started to bark in the back bedroom. I vaguely remember one of the adults telling us to run back to see what all the commotion was about. My brother and I dashed down the long, dark hall. We were greeted by the largest box of Christmas gifts I had ever seen in one place in my 8, or maybe 9 years, of living. There was no doubt the box arrived directly from the North Pole and was delivered by Santa himself.
The young man is looking up at me with those big brown eyes. He wants to believe me, but he’s not buying it. Someone he trusts, maybe a school chum, did a good job on him, but I was not deterred. I want to try one more time push his skepticism further away and to convince him of my truth, my belief in the “magic of Santa”. The young man leans in, waiting for more, but that was all I had. The story had reached its logical end.
His mother pays for her purchases and as the young man heads out of the store, I realized that I had shared the first gift of the season with him, my story. But that first gift was really mine. Sharing my story brought back the good feelings of that 1967 Christmas Eve and I carried that feeling of nostalgia and wonder with me the rest of the day.
I’m not sure why he decided to share that secret piece of information with me, but I’m glad he did. We are never to old to believe in the magic. I must have needed a reminder.
So right now you’re thinking I’m crazy old lady, but at 61 I still believe in the wonder of Santa and the magic of the season and I always will. I will leave you with this …