“Mom, is Santa really Uncle Roger?”
Isabelle, aged seven, asked me this a few days ago.
All the fuss of Christmas is behind us. But Is-Santa-Real? is clearly still on her mind.
It came up a few times in the approach to Christmas. At the ripe old age of grade-two, some kids in her school are sniffing things out. This precipitated some Olympic-style “we believe” discussions at home. Some of her school friends are different religions and thus don’t do Santa, so those were important discussion to have too.
Isabelle was noticing that Santa looked different in different places. But my husband double-downed and arranged for emails and letters to appear at the house from Santa for both girls. The “Santa’s watching, be good” schtick seemed to keep working. Overall, we seemed to be winning.
But then at the last family holiday gathering of the year, a few days after Christmas, Isabelle’s Great Uncle Roger showed up dressed up like Santa with presents for all the little kids. Isabelle took her present with glee. But the wheels were quietly turning.
So when she asked, we made up a quick story. Yes, that had been Uncle Roger. He was on contract to Santa, we explained, who had returned to the North Pole exhuasted from his world travels. We may have gone on a little long about how that worked. About how Uncle Roger got the suit and the presents delivered from the North Pole, and about the various kinds of sub-contracting arrangements Santa has with Uncles and Grandpas all over the world.
Isabelle just listened - brow slightly furrowed - and nodded. (Note to self: no need to sell what’s already sold; kids can sniff a sell-job.)
Was this our last Christmas of magic with Isabelle? By next Christmas – as she nears the age of eight – will the show be up? The thought makes me a little sad.
But we won’t go without a fight.
We will make fake reindeer tracks on the lawn. And boot tracks in the living room. If pushed, we will put a pair of black boots and red pants in the fireplace and wake the kids up in the middle of the night to peak down the stairs to catch Santa in action. My dad did this for my brothers and I, and - to this day - I can vividly recall the excitement. Oh, we will up our game of lies and deceit. We will hang on to the magic just as long as we can.
And if come next Christmas we find the gig is up?
Well, I guess we’ll just focus on explaining the whole other kind of Christmas magic to believe in.