It’s looking more and more like this is the year it happens. That I knew it someday would (“Sooner or later” is how I’ve always put it, and I always assumed it would be later) hasn’t dulled the pain. I thought it would be like getting a shot—if you know the needle’s coming, it won’t hurt as much.
Yet here I sit, this sixth of December, and I can doubt it no longer:
My kids won’t go to see Santa this year.
There’s been no mention of the mall and the temporary Christmas village that’s set up there. No pre-planning of what cookies to put out on Christmas Eve and how much milk. And the closest my kids have gotten to writing letters to Jolly Old Saint Nick are the two pieces of scrap paper I found on the coffee table this morning, one in the bubbly script of a little girl, the other in the barely legible writing of a little boy. Disheartening, to say the least, even if they were kind enough to list their wants in descending order of importance.
My daughter is ten now, my son eight. I wonder how that happened, and so fast. Just last year they both bought into the whole thing, the reindeer and the elves and the he-sees-you-when-you’re-sleeping. Now, even though they’re both silent on the issue, they know. I know they know. There’s not denying it anymore, at least to them—Santa isn’t real.
Bid deal, you say. But I say it is. I don’t want my kids to grow up. I don’t want them to lose sight of the magic that permeates this world, because it’s there. It’s everywhere, and once upon a time I knew that myself and then grew up and forgot it and they—my children—were the ones to teach me about that magic again. And a very selfish part of me is afraid if my kids forget about that magic, then I might forget about it again, too.
They’re still into the other things. At least I have that. They love the trees and the lights and the carols. They love the secret packages that are hidden and shared only in whispers.
Most of all, my kids are still into the wandering wise man.before—how one of the magi from our nativity somehow manages to get lost each year between the attic and the living room. He wanders the house between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, appearing in bedrooms and bathrooms and—once—on the front porch. Trying to find Jesus, just like the rest of us. It’s still the first thing my children look for every morning. They need to know where the wise man’s gone to next. Yes, I still have that. I figure if I have that, I’m okay.
He was in the kitchen last night, propped up on the counter between the coffee maker and the sugar. I went to move him after the kids were asleep, meaning to put him in front of the little Linus figurine in the dining room that says THAT’S WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT. He was gone. Moved not by my hands or the hands of my wife, but (I suspect) ones much smaller.
I guess that little secret’s out, as well.
But you know what? That’s okay. Finding that wise man gone saved me. It taught me something important. Discovering that some of the magic we’ve always believed in isn’t real can be an okay thing. Maybe even necessary. But discovering that you can turn around and make some magic of your own? That’s not only okay and necessary, that’s a blessing.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a wise man to find.