Like most families with children we read The Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve without fail. We also read a book called The Santa Mouse. Unlike most families (I’m assuming), we leave cheese out for that little mouse along with a plate of homemade cookies and milk for Santa on his special Santa plate. We run outside and sprinkle glitter and oats and carrots in the yard for the reindeer. I’m not sure if this is normal, but it’s what we do because we are the product of our parents, and this is actually a really accurate picture of them. The pillars of our household – they have taught us how to live, how to celebrate, and how to be generous and thoughtful in every detail of our lives. They leave no stone unturned in the way of making Christmas magical for us, down to feeding the Santa Mouse and eight tiny reindeer.
I remember being made fun of in the 8th grade for still believing in Santa Claus. It used to really bother me, not because I was being made fun of, but because I was deeply sad for my classmates. Even my very best friend would scoff at me and my childishness. I’m sure I was the laughing stock of the middle school that Christmas season, but it did not bother me. My rebuttal was sound and sure. There was just no way my parents were Santa Claus.
I realized that he may not be real in everyone else’s home, but Santa Claus was indeed real in mine, and you could not have convinced me that my mother was going out in the yard during the wee hours of the night gnawing on carrots just to convince me and my sisters that reindeer were real. They just didn’t have to go to those lengths, and I knew my mother well enough to know that she wouldn’t have. To this day the visual of either of my parents eating the cookies, responding to our letters, setting up trampolines in the yard under the moonlight, and working through the night to put together the prettiest piles of perfectly wrapped gifts in special Santa paper, signed in a handwriting I’ve never seen: “Love, Santa” - it still stuns me. Nothing gets me more than thinking of my mother or my father eating carrots off of the cold hard ground in our front yard. I just cannot fathom it.
In my house, my mother taught us that where there is love, there is Santa, and the love in my household is undeniable. Love has seen us through every dark day and sleepless night. It has seen us through seasons of diaper changing, cheer competitions, unemployment, adolescence, even death. It has carried us through unimaginable firsts, like college drop offs, holidays apart from each-other, first dates, first driving lessons. Love has taught us how to hope when the situation was hopeless, it has taught us how to forgive the unforgivable, it has gently picked us up when we fell and is has cheered us on as we celebrated with shouts of victory.
Last Christmas was the first Christmas that one of us girls didn’t get an American Girl doll or the hottest new toy on the market. We’ve outgrown that now. Demery wanted a mattress and she got it. Devan wanted gold and everything that glittered, shoes, handbags, and perfume. That’s the kind of days we are living in. My parents served us Prosecco with our french toast instead of orange juice, and it felt strange because we weren’t searching for batteries for our new toys or drinking out of sippy cups anymore. We are no longer the little girls we once were, and I realized that if you were to examine our Christmases over the years (and you can because they are all on tape!) you could use each one as a means of measuring our growth.
We still cuddle up on the couch around my parents who we adore, while my mom reads The Night Before Christmas as if it were a song she’s long sung. Devan still wakes up first every year, though we’ve graduated from her 6am wake up to something more godly, around 8 or 9am. Demery is the hardest to wake up still. My dad awaits us the bottom of the stairs, fumbling to get the camera ready, and we squeal at the top with anticipation. We will get everything on our lists and more. Our presents don’t even fit under the tree. They are in individual piles with a large sparkly ribbon on top, and we know immediately which pile is ours, and it is joy upon joy, not because of any one gift, but because we are so so loved. We feel it deep in our being that we are loved by God and by our parents and by Santa Claus who has visited for 22 years, outdoing himself each time with no limit of love.
I dream of the day we will shower our own children with gifts, picking up the torch where my parents left off. We will plot together how to make magic - the Christmas kind that only love can inspire. Dear ones, Santa is real. He will be real long after my parents are gone to Glory, this my sisters and I know - Santa Claus will be real, as long as love is.