Quietly I snuck back to bed, excitedly anticipating the morning when I could play with my new toy.
Imagine my surprise on Christmas morning, running to the Christmas tree only to see the tag on the dollhouse: “To Mary (my little sister), Love Santa.”
For a moment I was utterly confused. The tag was supposed to say: “To Debbie, Love Dad.”
At first I thought maybe Santa brought my sister a similar dollhouse, so she wouldn’t feel sad. Imagine my dismay as I realized there was no dollhouse for me from my dad. My confusion gave way to understanding as I slowly realized that my dad might actually be Santa. Although the evidence was right before my eyes, I could hardly believe that to be the truth.
Years later, after my dad moved on, I recognized my mom’s handwriting on the tags from Santa and in my teen-aged rebellion I began calling her Sandra-Claus (since her name is Sandra.) She admonished me to keep the secret safe for my little brother, who was still young enough to believe in such things as Christmas magic. But in my jealousy, I told him that our mom was Santa. With the steadfast belief of the young and naïve, he argued until I made him cry.
Years later, as a parent of eight children, I have had similar conversations with my own kids.
One year, when we were dirt poor and had no presents for Christmas, the kids were quite disappointed. I worked as a waitress then, so during the course of the week following Christmas, I saved all my tip money and hit the post-Christmas sales. With only a couple hundred dollars, I was able to fill a box with presents for my kids. On New Years Eve I placed the giant box, loaded with toys, clothes and presents under the tree with a note.
It read: “Dear kids, this box of presents fell off of Santa’s sleigh. It took us a week to find it. Sorry to ruin your Christmas, Love Santa’s Elves.”
When my son discovered the box the next morning he came running into my bedroom yelling, “Mom, Santa Claus is real.”
Their delight and amazement helped me feel better about being a week late with the presents.
Years later, when I was a single mom with six children still in the house, the women in my book club decided to give my kids a Christmas like none they had ever experienced. Little did they know that they would also give me a Christmas like none I had ever experienced.
The ten of them gathered presents for my family throughout the month of December. On Christmas Eve, after my kids had gone to bed, my book club friends and their husbands delivered three car loads of gifts to our home. It filled the tiny living room knee-deep in presents.
When my kids had gone to bed, our tree had a pitiful pile of presents under it. I bought them gifts, just in case the book club thing didn’t work out, and two of the teenagers had jobs, so they had purchased gifts for their younger siblings.
When the children awoke on Christmas morning, the living room was filled with presents.
The little kids were convinced that Santa is real, and as my daughter handed gifts to everyone, I too, believed in the magic of Christmas.
Christmas magic isn’t about large piles of presents. It is the kindness and generosity of people around us,that is truly magical.
We can each keep the magic of Christmas alive in our own lives by sharing love, kindness and forgiveness with those around us. We can offer someone an unexpected gift. We can go back and make things right.
Yes, children, there is a Santa Claus and he lives on in each one of us as we share our lives and love with those around us.