Friday, December 24, 2010
When my brother, Joe and I were little, our mom would take us to Swezey's Department store right before Christmas. We would walk through a magnificent indoor Winter-Wonderland and get on line behind dozens of other kids and wait. On a throne fit for a king, sat Santa Claus.
In those days, it was perfectly safe for mom to just leave us there so she could get her shopping done. The longer the line of children waiting to talk with Santa; the more time she had to accomplish her tasks. My brother and I didn't mind when mom left us. We were in good company. We were in the presence of Santa and our mission was to sit on his knee and rattle off a long list of everything we wanted him to bring us for Christmas that year. I still don't know how my mother did it; but everything we asked for was waiting under the tree on Christmas morning.
One year, I remember we were both very sick and couldn't get out to see Santa in person. Joe and I were so upset. We sent Santa letters in the mail, but what if he didn't get them in time? What if the mailman lost OUR letters? We were so certain there would be nothing waiting for us under the tree that Christmas. Our parents tried to reassure us that Santa knows all, sees all, and he understood we were sick and would still bring us what we wanted. Nothing would convince or console us but Santa heard our cries and called us up on the phone! Years later we learned it was our beloved Uncle Charlie who disguised his voice and wrote down every little thing we asked for.
My folks always did the whole Santa-Thing really big! They would have a Christmas Eve party at the house every year. My brother and I would leave a snack for Santa. It was never the traditional milk and cookies--it was port wine cheese, crackers, and a bottle of scotch. We listened to continuous updates of Santa's whereabouts over the radio. As soon as we heard that Santa and his reindeer-driven sleigh were flying over New York, we would race upstairs, hop into bed, and pray to fall asleep immediately. We knew if we were still awake, he would pass right over our house. What a way to get kids to go to bed early! What we didn't know is that our parents were dragging out all the presents they had been hiding for months, wrapping gifts, and assembling bikes and Barbie-doll houses. Even with all the last minute chores and details, my father still managed to climb up on the roof and ring bells to let us know Santa was very, very close. We were too terrified to even think about sneaking downstairs to catch a glimpse of the jolly fat man laying gifts beneath our tree. Imagine if we saw what was really going on--my father sipping scotch, cussing and complaining as he tried to assemble some crazy toy contraption we just had to have, and mom feeding him cheese and crackers to calm him down.
Of course, we no longer believe in Santa Claus. We became adults and too smart for such "foolishness". A few years ago, Joe and I went to see the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. We sat beside each other and wept like babies. We realized that something died inside us the day we lost our innocence and our belief in miracles and magic. We wanted so much to believe again.
The whole legend of Santa is totally ridiculous when you think about it. A man who loves Christmas and children so much that he travels the world delivering toys? It's impossible for eight tiny reindeer to draw a sleigh through the air with a huge man and enough gifts for every single child in the world, but we believed it. It was faith. We didn't see it, we didn't hear it, we didn't understand it, but when we woke up on Christmas morning, the miracle was waiting for us.
We lose something precious when we make the transition from child to adult. We experience pain, heartache, disappointment and loss. We lose our child-like faith. We become cynics and critics and the simple things that once brought us pleasure are now silly, un-necessary, and inconvenient. Even Christmas is a bother--all the shopping, cooking, wrapping, cleaning. We agonize over all the butter and sugar in the Christmas cookies and refuse a cup of eggnog because it's just too fattening. Once we dreamed of a White Christmas but now we hope it doesn't snow because it's such a mess to drive in and so darn cold.
My prayer is that I would always see things as a child does, not just at Christmas, but all year long. Whether I am rich or poor, may I never lose my peace, hope, or joy. I ask for the faith to see that miracles really do occur every day. I certainly don't believe in Santa anymore, but I don't ever want to stop believing the true message of Christmas. The greatest gift of love was given to all man-kind and in return, we are simply asked to share that gift with others.
From my heart to yours, have a very Happy Holiday and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
And this is my Daily Cyn.......