Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yes, Virginia

(I hate to recycle old material, but this one is worth sharing again...)


Yes, Virginia
There is a Santa Claus.

Sometimes he just wears a different hat.

Now that the winter has hit us with some fierce temperatures, my stroller workout class has permanently moved to the mall until spring. This is fine, except for the fact that the mom brigade has had to maneuver around last-minute Christmas shoppers and there's seasonal music blasting from the overhead speakers as we sprint and squat ourselves silly to ward off the effects of sugar cookies and sliced ham.
We start and end our routine not far from Santa's workshop, which opens shortly after class concludes.
A few weeks ago a jolly looking fellow sporting a big white beard, regular street clothes, and a small plastic cooler approached our huddle of moms and passed relatively unnoticed through the doors of an out-of-business storefront where he presumably transformed into St. Nick for hordes of children visiting the mall with their parents that day.

I say this man passed "relatively unnoticed" because he managed to catch the attention of two toddlers whose eyes lit up when they saw him.
The one boy innocently asked his mother why Santa wasn't wearing his signature red suit.
The mom, appropriately named Virginia, told her son that Santa had just come back from fishing.
I looked at her with a sense of both wonder and bewilderment.
Initially I was confused.
How could this mom sit there in the middle of her ab exercises and come up with the arbitrary excuse of "gone fishing" for Santa Claus?
Was she anticipating a query of this magnitude her son's whole life, rehearsing what she'd tell her boy if a man with a white beard passed them on the street in the middle of December?
What completely caught me off guard was the fact that Virginia barely missed a beat when her child asked her to explain the impossible.
He might as well have asked, "Where do babies come from?"
But Virginia's explanation that Santa had just returned from a fishing excursion was all too real.
Even I believed her.
Of course, it made perfect sense.
Kris Kringle liked to spend his mornings reeling in some bass before heading to his workshop to take gift requests from hopeful children.
Virginia's son took his mother for her word, never once pushing the envelope and demanding to know more about Santa's escapades.
Everyone in the group sort of nodded in agreement with Virginia, as we watched the man in the gray hoodie and faded blue jeans enter his dressing room, draw the curtains, and escape from plain sight.
Doug and I have had discussions about what we'll teach Mackenzie as she grows up and wants to know how Christmas evolved.
Right now, our daughter seems completely disinterested in the lights on the Christmas tree and the few gifts she's already opened. She is, however, utterly content with eating every ounce of wrapping paper, tissue paper, and curly ribbon in our house.
So, for now, I don't know how exactly we'll celebrate Christmas each year as Mackenzie gets older and what we'll teach her about the holiday.
But I do know that we'll always want her to have a sense of wonder, amazement, and curiosity about things that may not necessarily be tangible.
We'll want her to believe in something bigger than herself.
We'll want her to believe that she sees Santa's sleigh in the night sky on Christmas Eve, that the season is more about being with family and less about opening presents under the tree, and that giving is better than receiving.
As mothers, we're never quite sure that our kids will trust the clever explanations we concoct about things that are larger than life. But if we try hard enough, we can remember what it's like to be a child again... to have that sense of wonder... to believe in magic. And we'll want to see that magic in our children's eyes.
I've seen Santa the Fisherman several times since that first encounter at the mall.
Each time he passes I imagine what kind of fish he caught that morning.
And I'm surprisingly refreshed by the fact that, despite my age and my penchant for cynicism, these thoughts still enter my mind.
So, here's to all the moms who read bedtime stories about far away lands and enchanted castles, to those who spend a Saturday afternoon playing dress-up with their daughters rather than shopping for a new wardrobe for themselves... to the mothers who load up the mini van to take the twins and their friends to see "Tangled"... and to the mommies who leave work early to pick up a gigantic Spider-Man balloon and an erupting volcano cake for their son's birthday party at school.
You're inspiring little dreamers every day, and in the long run they'll be better off because of it.
And here's to you, Virginia.
Thank you for making me believe again.

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