“She's waiting for you,” my husband said when I got home. It was long after bedtime, and she couldn't sleep. “Something happened at school today, and she wants to talk to you about it.”
She was heartbroken. The magic was gone, and she was covered in the cinders of destroyed fairy dust.
And it was all Avalanche McBoyerson's fault.
He's the one who just blurted it out in fifth-period history class: “There is no Santa.”
“It's really not his fault,” she sniffed, wiping her eyes and staring hard at me. It's not as if she hadn't known something might be awry. How many times, within her earshot, had I claimed an almost ninja-like shopping prowess for the items she thought had come from the big man himself?
“It's just so hard being the only kid in the fourth-grade who still believes in Santa.”
And she does … she still believes.
To prove it, she had come home after school and written a detailed letter to Santa, which she slipped into an envelope and left on my desk to be mailed.
It began thusly: “A boy in school I know told me that you aren't real. But I know that's not true. You are real.”
It was a paragraph of wishful thinking that reminded me of the most famous holiday letter of all … from 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon to the editor of the New York Sun.
Cuddled up with my daughter as she sought solace, I felt the fire of a thousand suns as I tried to recall the beautiful sentiment expressed in “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” from memory.
But she didn't want the poetry. She just wanted a straight answer to her question: Who puts the presents under our tree? Is it a mythical being or do you do it?
The thing is, I don't want Ittybit to leave childhood thinking the magic of Santa was all just a lie.
I don't want her to think his spirit disappears the moment your mind can no longer expand enough to believe that some roly-poly old elf could miraculously fit down a chimney (that you might not even have) to leave your heart's (manufacturer's retail value) desire under a Christmas tree.
Santa's shouldn't vanish. Santa should evolve.
Santa isn't just a parent who pretends. Santa is also a family that donates to Toys for Tots and local food pantries.
Santa is the person who organizes a fund drive for the family that just lost their home in a fire.
Santa is the person ahead of you in the “14-Items or Fewer” line who lets you go first because you have only a handful of things.
You never know, Santa could even be the kid who chooses an ornament from the Tree of Needs and uses their own money to buy a present for a kid less fortunate.
Looking into her eyes as I try and express this idea, though, I wonder what the 10-year-old Virginia thought of that Sun editorial.
I can only hope time will help show her that an evolved Santa is even better than the original, you know, because the Santa within each and every one of us can decide to celebrate year-round.