In my family, we’ve reached that in-between point in the Christmas experience. It’s the point that comes when your kids are old enough that Christmas isn’t magic any more. When you’ll never here the little, high-pitched suck of air as they stumble sleepy from their rooms to the magical possibilities that lay beneath the tree.
There are four phases to Santa. The first is marked by that little inward breath–by the knowledge that all the waiting and all the being good and all the time that’s passed has been worth it. And that there’s something under that tree that Santa picked out specially for you–because he loves you.
Sure, when you’re a kid, it’s the things that matter, or so you think. Maybe it’s an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle (you’ll shoot your eye out!). Maybe it’s the swing set in the back yard that you swear you heard Santa drop out of his sleigh. Maybe it’s the note from Santa that there’s a dog coming to be part of your family.
Then you get a little older, maybe old enough that your response to someone’s glee on Christmas morning is “Go away. I’m sleeping!” said with a little more anger and edge than is really required. When Christmas is a mostly adult thing, and you being mostly adult are too old for that Santa crap, though you don’t want to admit that you miss the days when there was extra stuff under the tree when you woke up that wasn’t there when you went to bed.
Then you get a little older and it’s your kids sucking the air out of the room and swearing they heard Santa drop the swing set from his sleigh. And though you’re weary and your fingers are still cold from putting the damned thing together while it was the coldest night ever in Florida, you hold off the nap you really need for a few extra minutes so you can watch them play on it–and the memory of the cold doesn’t seem so bad.
Then sometime between the time of the swing set and the day when your son is the one who says “Go away. I’m sleeping” a little too harshly, you enter the fourth phase.
The first phase isn’t about stuff, really, it’s about knowing someone did that just for you. The second phase is when you really want to believe again, still, but you know you can’t. The third phase is when you work deep into the night and realize that if Santa really did exist you wouldn’t be out here in the cold working on this damned swing set at midnight because the kids were too excited to go to sleep.
And the fourth phase is pretty much the same as the first. It comes when you realize that if someone went out and put a lot of thought into getting that thing just for you, you still get that warm feeling you used to get when you were a kid, when it wasn’t really about the stuff, or even about being good for goodness sakes.
It was about that feeling that you got when you saw the swingset and you knew that this was home and that for all its warts, this is where magic happened. And if the magic really did happen, and someone cared enough about you to give you that feeling, then there really is a Santa.
And now that you’ve had a chance to dispense that feeling to others, to make them feel that this was home and that magic happened here, you believe it again.
We have the gift, through words, or making magic. Of making people cry with our craft from time to time. Of letting people feel a touch of your very own magic.
What a gift that is.