It was the morning of the annual Christmas celebration in my neighborhood. Roads around a park would be shut down for a couple of hours while kids decorated cookies, made crafts, danced to a live band, and of course, met Santa. My neighborhood homeowners dues can feel pricey at times, but on this occasion they seem worth it.
I was looking for my camera as Kiddo approached me. “Mom,” he said. “I know it’s not going to be the real Santa.”
I gulped as I glanced around the room. LT was nowhere in site. Shew, the situation is still contained. I frantically thought how best to handle the line of questioning I was sure would be coming next.
Now I have a few issues with Christmas, how it has taken over the entire month of December, is annexing November, and has even begun to bleed into October. It even has a small outpost in July. Yet at the same time I absolutely adore the look upon the kids faces as the decorations go up (which is the only reason I have forgiven my siblings for the 6ft tall bilingual singing Santa they ‘gifted’ us with several years ago and perhaps a story for another day), and I can’t help but smile at their excitement as the holiday specials begin to flood the airways.
Only this year, as we watched a few of the movies, I began to notice how many feature a character rediscovering their Christmas spirit after meeting the real Santa and it troubled me. Just a year or two ago, Kiddo would never have thought to question the authenticity of Santa in the park. But now? . . . Darn you Holiday Classics! Darn you, every one.
I looked into Kiddo’s eyes, still unsure how to respond.
“I know it is one of his helpers,” kiddo offered, oblivious to my discomfort.
In that instant it felt like a little bit of Kiddo’s innocence fell away. “Yes, it probably is,” I said while hoping that LT would remain in the other room awhile longer.
Luckily the conversation ended there and we arrived at the park a short time later. The band was rocking out holiday tunes and the hot cocoa was delicious. After taking a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, we got in line to meet Mr. Claus. Before long it was our turn. For the very first time, LT wasn’t afraid as we placed him on the bench next to the man in the red suit. Without missing a beat, Santa insisted that Lamont and I join the boys for a group photo while instructing the prior family to stick around and take our picture. I was impressed. The man knew how to run an assembly line. Once photographed, he turned to each boy and listened as they tried to recall their wishlists. Afterward, he looked at them both and announced with authority that they had been good rather than asking them if they had. I watched in awe as kiddo’s eyes widened.
As we walked away, Kiddo turned to me and said, “mom, I know that Santa has helpers, but I think that might be the real Santa.”
“I think you might be right,” I answered as I saw a little of his boyhood wonder return, if only for a moment. And I meant it. After all, I certainly got what I wanted from Santa this year.