I'm probably kind of weird this way.
But I still believe in Santa Claus.
That is why Christmas this year is becoming more difficult for me. Not because my faith is eroding, or even slightly fading. Not because so many things in the world are not going as I wish they could. Not because people have become so shallow about wealth, status, popularity and appearance that important concepts like health, family, and friendship are too corny to hold our attention.
This year my eldest daughter Alannah has informed me that she does not believe in Santa Claus.
"He's just a guy with a fake beard and a red suit, Dad", she stated so matter-of-factly. "Gimme a break, ok?"
Alannah is seven. She will be eight in February. Alannah is just beginning that nightmare period of her young life where she actually believes she knows everything.
She informed me of this last week as I was out sitting in the garage having a smoke.
For as beautiful as my lovely wife Darlene has decorated our house this year, the garage is still my sanctuary. I can still sit on the old couch in the garage after work and have a smoke with a drink and listen to Pat Caputo talk about sports on the radio.
And the radio talk has been depressing with the Detroit Lions in the process of achieving the first 16 game winless season in the NFL history. And the Big Three automakers – all based of course in Detroit – hoping for assistance from the American federal government. And knowing that the fall-out of a collapse in Detroit will have exponentially dire consequences here in Windsor.
It's a depressing environment this year.
But this year, my Mom is up visiting for her first Christmas with my daughters. Up from the sunny southern gulf coast – where it snowed the day before mom arrived in the Great White North.
That is why we are so beautifully decorated this year.
And Grandma Brill still believes in Santa Claus.
So when Alannah came out to inform me of her newly-found wisdom, she and I sat in the garage – smoky and cold – full of empty decoration boxes and other holiday containers waiting to be discarded or re-used when the holidays are over – and we talked.
"Is that all you think Santa Claus is, Alannah?", I started very carefully. "Just a fat guy with a fake beard in a rented red suit?"
"Pretty much, yup.", she smiled at me, proud of her own adult-like cognitive processing skills.
"Anytime you see Santa Claus at Christmas – he looks like a different person."
"And it's never the real Santa Claus."
"Nobody can fly around the world in a night and deliver toys to all the kids in the world", Alannah stated as if this were some type of proof. Her closing argument, if you will, to a jury that would have no option but to agree with her.
"Right?" she asked in her appeal to confirm her winning such an important argument as the dismissal of Santa.
"I don't think you quite get it, Alannah", I prepared my next comments very carefully, but quickly in my own mind before continuing.
"Who else do you see at Christmas time?", I asked.
"Frosty, Rudolph, baby Jesus …", she started listing the icons of the holiday.
"Baby Jesus". I said. "Is baby Jesus fake?"
"No, Daddy – baby Jesus is real and you should be ashamed to ask me that!"
"Is Jesus still a baby?", I continued.
"I don't know?", she replied.
"Is Jesus with us always?"
"Yes, Daddy he lives in our heart".
"Is God with us always?"
"Yes, he is all around us Daddy, he makes the trees and birds and everything."
"And you know this to be true, like I do?"
"uh huh", she nodded.
"Well, so is Santa Claus", I stated. "Santa is not a guy in a rented suit with a fake beard. Those are men. But they are very special men, because they help us keep the spirit of Santa Claus alive and with us at Christmas time."
"The spirit of Santa Claus?".
"Yes, the spirit of giving. Of giving equally to everyone".
"Everyone who is good." Corrected Alannah.
"Have you been good every year? Have you been good every day of the year?", I asked.
"Well, no, nobody can be good every day of every year".
"But you still get presents from Santa Claus on Christmas morning, though. Have you ever received a lump of coal?"
"Santa is also the spirit of forgiveness, like baby Jesus."
"So Santa Claus is not real then?".
"Santa is real in your heart, where it matters the very most. Just like you keep baby Jesus in your heart all year long, you should also keep Santa Clause in your heart."
Alannah sat there and she fumbled this over and over again in her mind.
"So if I don't believe in Santa Claus, then he won't be real".
"To you, that's right. Santa can't exist unless you believe in him." I said. "Pretty magic, huh?"
Alannah hugged me and went back into the house.
I sat there for a few minutes playing that conversation over and over again in my mind. I do not know if what I said was right. But it was honest and therefore it must be right. But I was not sure what was going through her mind as she left. I think she was confused.
But Alannah is a pretty smart little girl.
Sunday was our company children's Christmas party. As you may remember from last year's entry entitled "Don't be scared of a little snow", we had to cancel last year's party due to inclement weather.
So the girls did not visit this Santa and Mrs. Claus last year. I was interested to see how this year's visit would go, given the talk Alannah and I had in the garage.
When their time came, Ashley-Rae sat on Santa's lap, and Alannah sat on Mrs. Claus'. Ashley-Rae whispered a joke into Santa's ear, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and waved bye. Santa laughed because I don't think many kids tell Santa a joke. But Ashley-Rae does. "Did you get that?" Santa yelled down to me.
I gave him the thumbs up. I was taking video on our little Kodak digital camera.
Alannah stood up and turned to Santa. She held both his hands as she stood there and talked to him. Her back was turned to me, so I tried to read in Santa's eyes what Alannah was saying. He answered her very nicely. And she leaned in and gave him a great big hug. And she whispered in his ear. And he gave her a great big hug. And she kissed him on his cheek and turned and jumped down.
"We'll see what we can do", he shouted to her as she departed.
Alannah hopped down off the stage as I stopped recording the event.
After we got home, I loaded the pictures from the digital camera to our PC – and I also downloaded the video of Alannah talking with Santa. It was a little darker than I wanted, but I tried to make out what was said.
It appeared that Alannah was explaining to Santa that she knew he was a man in a red suit with a fake beard. And Santa's face dropped slightly. So Alannah hugged him and thanked him for being Santa because men who play Santa are special too. Then she told Santa that she understands that because Santa is like baby Jesus and lives in your heart. And then Santa hugged her.
Then she asked for a present by whispering in his ear. I do not know what that present was. But I suspect it was that she gets a part in a play at a theatre she likes. And that's when I heard Santa say "We will see what we can do..".
I'm not sure, but I think she understands.