It’s been a while, I know. As thirty-five years have gone by since my last letter, you might think I had forgotten you. But I didn’t forget, I just got busy.
I was busy growing up. Somewhere between 1979 and 1990 I began to believe that you were just for children. That you were mostly mall laps, a fuzzy red and white outfit and a pom-pom hat on a float in a parade. I came to believe that as an adult, I had other uses for you. Instead of writing you letters and telling you I had been good, I brought you with me and my young children. You went with us on errands in the car, to the beach, the grocery store and to church. When I said, “Spencer, don’t hit Parker!” “Trevor, come here, I need to spray on this sunscreen,” or “Let Spencer push the cart this time,” and “All of you, sit still and look at the pictures in this Bible!” I said that last one in a whisper that sounded like a yell. I finished all of those sentences with “…or Santa won’t come.” I used you, boldly, and at my discretion.
I stopped believing in the real you I think, because I thought I didn’t have to. Their father and I did everything. We earned the money to pay for the gifts, stayed up late at night putting together Bouncy Ball houses, lacrosse nets, and Optimus Prime Transformers. We baked and ate the cookies, sipped the milk (“you” left a note one year saying you were lactose intolerant and asked for Lactaid). One year “you” even went on the roof with a bunch of jingle bells from Michael’s craft store. You thumped and stomped on our old shingles so much I was afraid you would land in the attic. Trevor’s eyes were unblinking as he ran to me from his room. He had the thrill of his 5- year old life. He believed. No magical chubby guy fell down the chimney to help us.
And yet, belief is a powerful thing. Like faith, it’s gotten me through a lot. I realize I had to choose to believe that I could possibly raise three sons coming from a family of women, survive an illness that has killed millions and three of my grandparents, and become the woman I wanted to be. I believed, even if I didn’t know that’s what I was doing.
Yes, this is my Christmas wish list, but the things on it aren’t for me. They are things I want to give to my children. Trevor is in college and the twins are headed to high school soon. I don’t want them to stop believing in you. Because one day in the near future, they will leave their father and I and go out into the world, and it will happen: the inevitable disbelieving. To prepare them, I want to believe that I could pop this letter in the mail and have it land on your desk just as you were reaching for another envelope to open. You could read it and tell right away if I was naughty or nice and send me what I asked for.
My children are not boys anymore. They are nearly men. in their stockings this year will be a beard brush for one, cell phone cases for two others and under the tree, fewer gifts because what they want is expensive. No more Tinker Toys, Legos or Flash Gordon action figures. One of the 14-year olds asked for a leather coat.
If only all of us parents could write you letters and ask for the gifts our children already have, the ones within. If you could, this year- would you look down on all the parents of the world and see how hard we work for our children, how we want them to realize that everything they want is already inside them? That they, not Target hold the secret to their happiness? Instead of Ipad’s, let our children unwrap their inner fire?
While we sleep on Christmas Eve, can you put Kindness in their stockings, Gratitude under the tree, Humility in the water they brush their teeth with, and as a special favor to me as the mother of sons, sew Chivalry onto the labels of their pajama pants?
I want to show my nearly grown boys that they should believe in magic, expect the fantastic, and that goodness can appear anywhere at anytime and not ask for anything in return. Please give them the ability to see the good in others not as something separate, but as an example of our commonality.
I know I want a lot, and I might not get it all.
But Santa, if anyone can make it happen, it’s you.
You did, after all, help me raise them.