There’s a lot of magic in our house. We have note-leaving Fairies, mischievous Elves, and many other fantastical visitors throughout the year. We also celebrate a large number of holidays and that makes December, with its candle lighting and tree trimming, a pretty packed month.
Of course with the tree comes Santa Claus. He’s the big hit of the season and everyone thinks he’s great. Well, except for one of my daughter’s fourth grade classmates.
Matthew says Santa’s not real.
The statement came out of nowhere and I wasn’t sure how to respond.
He says it’s not really Santa. It’s your parents.
In order to buy more time so I could approach this unexpected pivotal moment from the right perspective, I replied in a way that, I have to say, I’m pretty proud of.
What?! He says Santa is MY parents?
She scrunched up her face in confusion. I used the few moments to gather my thoughts.
Um, no. The parents. Like everybody’s parents.
Oh, why does he think that?
I don’t know. I told him that if that’s true then how does Santa make those videos he sends me every year from that app on the phone?
She had a point. Santa did send her a personalized video every year. As luck would have it, he sent one that night. I watched her face to see if Matthew’s words had affected her feelings on it but couldn’t discern anything either way.
For us, Santa’s real. We don’t use him as a threat or a bargaining chip. Santa doesn’t take away toys or leave threatening post-it notes. He’s the guy who comes to our home once a year and helps us out in leaving gifts for the kids. He gets cookies. We get presents. Everyone is happy.
All kids question the magic at some point, though. I had waited for Olivia to broach that subject since she started Kindergarten. It’s a natural curiosity and one that usually springs up around this age. I know that it did for me.
I must have been around eight or nine when I first saw the pebble that looked exactly like a tooth during recess. It was sitting right there in the sand below the tire swing. The color and shape were perfect to test a theory that had been swirling in my mind. Yes. In the dark and under a pillow, it would be a dead ringer for the real thing. If there was a real tooth-grabbing fairy, she’d surely come flying by and verify her existence.
After school, I went home and put this pebble into a zip lock bag. Then, without telling anyone else in the entire world, I placed it beneath my pillow. That night, I would finally know for sure if this so-called Tooth Fairy was real.
Of course, I could always have just waited for a real tooth to fall out and then not tell anyone, but I was pretty sure this whole thing was a con and didn’t want to lose out on a genuine pillow payment. In my mind, there was no way a fairy was really coming to collect a pebble during the night and, since no one knew about it, I was sure that it would simply verify everything I had thought.
The next morning, I woke up and lifted the pillow. Yup. You guessed it.
The zip lock bag was gone.
I’m not embarrassed to say that I freaked out. It was as if a Ouija board had just burst into flames in front of me. I didn’t know if I had to go to confession or walk on coals or what. All I knew was that I had deceived the spirit world and it scared me silly. I told no one of this and went on without questioning.
A few weeks later, I found the zip locked pebble under my bed. Still, though, the message had been received. I told myself that she must have known the difference, which was why it was left behind, but hid it from my view to teach me a lesson. The initial shock was enough to squash any potential doubts.
I know that there are kids who stop believing at different points but pretend in order to not upset the apple cart. The belief they have is that the absence of belief would lead to the absence of presents. It makes sense. That had always been the idea peddled to kids and it turns the magic into fear. I never liked that aspect of the holidays and during that same conversation about mangy Mathew and his Parent Claus Hypothesis, she confirmed that to an extent.
When you stop believing, Santa stops coming, right?
I wanted to say the right thing. I hope I did.
No. That’s not true. You can believe whatever you choose. That’s what’s great about the world. People have all sorts of beliefs. Some don’t believe in Santa. Some people even think the Earth is flat. Seriously. Flat. There are also people who believe that there are top secret people in power who control everything.
Second shock of the day came as her eyes lit up and she shouted.
Wow. Where did you hear about the Illuminati?
This conversation continued to evolve and by the time my wife walked into the room, we were talking about Lizard People and hollow Earth theory. If there was a prize for subject changing, I won it.
It took me a long time to figure this out, but magic is real. It’s all about how you define the word magic. Too often we equate magical things to magical tricks. Santa has to wave a finger in the air or disappear in a puff of smoke. That’s not what makes him magical though. That’s not what real magic is.
Magic, as it affects all of our lives, is about feeling. It’s about epiphanies and life changing moments that set us off on new directions. It’s about friendship and compassion and all the emotions that stretch beyond the ones we feel on a regular basis. While many experience that feeling throughout the year, for some people, it occurs more around the Holidays. Either way, the magic we experience are all the parts of life that remind us we’re alive.
Given that definition, I definitely believe. I hope she always does too.