Lately, my 8-year-old son Michael has been asking me if Santa is real. I am not at all sure what to tell him, for a number of reasons. First (and many people might think, foremost), we are Jewish. That said, Michael has always believed in Santa, but totally understood that because we don’t celebrate Christmas, Santa just doesn’t come to our house. And he’s always been okay with that (unlike his older brother, who at the age of about 4, asked me “When we’re done being Jewish, can we get a Christmas tree?”)
Michael has, for some reason, always had this fascination with Santa. When he was in kindergarten, he asked if we could go to the mall to see him. I said we could, and on our way there, we had a conversation about what we might talk to Santa about, given that, you know, we don’t even celebrate Christmas. Michael waited patiently in line for about 30 minutes, and when we got the front, he wouldn’t say a word to Santa or sit on his lap, but was completely mesmerized. I did the talking for us, and told Santa that we’re Jewish but that Michael had really wanted to see him. He looked at both of us, wished us a Happy Hanukkah, and told us that it’s all really about what’s in our hearts. I walked away from the experience feeling like I’d just met the real thing. Michael walked away with a little holiday paperback (containing some really weird story about some kids who get trapped in a giant snow globe, or something like that), courtesy of the mall. He still talks about meeting Santa. And the book. Which, now that I think of it, I hope he doesn’t pull out and ask me to read to him. It kind of scares me.
Michael and I just read one of Judy Blume’s “Fudge” books, and the topic of whether or not Santa is real comes up. I tried to gloss over the part where the older brother says there’s no Santa, but Michael was having none of it. So I read the page, then asked him, “Do you think Santa is real?” And he seemed very concerned about the whole thing, and told me that he’s not sure, but that most of his friends do believe in Santa. And then he asked me what I think. And what I tried to explain to him, in the best way I thought an 8-year-old could understand, was that on some level, yes, I do believe in Santa. I believe in the magic of the holidays. I believe that there are people in this world who will show you their best, most generous selves. I believe in the idea of Santa.
We talked about it some more, and Michael still isn’t sure what to think. Logic is starting to take hold, and he says that it would be impossible for one person to deliver gifts to everyone in the world in one night. I am glad that he’s talking to me about it, instead of just sadly realizing that so many of the magical things of our childhood are parents slipping into our room late at night to tuck a dollar bill under our pillows, hiding gifts in the attic, and writing notes in handwriting that won’t be recognized.
Being a mom has made all of those things magical again for me, and I’d like to be able to hold onto that magic for just a little bit longer.