I believe in Santa Claus.
I hadn’t for a long time.
But a little love, and some slightly twisted logic from an 8-year-old girl, has convinced me to give this faith-thing a second chance.
My niece, Kera, is in third grade. She doesn’t believe in Santa Claus anymore.
I remember that time in my life. I was in first grade.
One afternoon during the long bus ride home from Myers Corners Elementary School, the issue of Santa became a topic of heated discussion. Pushed into making an impassioned defense of the existence of the jolly elf,
I was, in short order, taunted to tears by the elementary school bus elders known reverently as fourth-graders. For ones so wise in the ways of the world, they sure were mean.
They let me think that believing in Santa was for babies and worse, that my parents had been lying to me my whole life.
I eventually got over the teasing, as most kids do. And since then, I’ve managed to get through the next 45 years or so with most of my fundamental beliefs intact. It’s probably a good thing I stopped riding the school bus.
Anyway, as I said, Kera doesn’t believe in Santa anymore. And from what I understand, she seems to have taken the news in stride.
What bothers her — and what makes me believe that maybe those rotten fourth-graders weren’t so wise after all — is how her epiphany is going to affect me.
She knows how much I enjoy that she still believes in Santa.
She delights in the two of us going outside on the porch and vigorously shaking sleigh bells and singing Christmas songs at the top of our lungs.
She insists, at my prompting, that she’s been good this year — even though we both know she isn’t always.
We both think reindeer poop is hilarious. (Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t?)
I only see her a few times a year, and Christmas is when we really bond. Our shared celebration of all things Santa is a big part of that.
When we stop being children, we are told, we must put aside childish things. And like a favorite blankey or a lovie doll or your first bestest friend, it’s not always easy to let go.
Sensing that, Kera is worried not that her realization might ruin her own Christmas, but that it will ruin mine. (I told you it was a little twisted.)
If I found out she no longer believes, she reasoned, then something special would be lost to me. So she told my wife, Lisa, not to share with me her latest thoughts on Santa. She said she wanted to give me one more year of believing that she believed.
The kid’s got nothing to worry about.
No one’s going to spoil the secret for me, because there’s no secret to spoil.
If you consider it for a second, what is Santa all about anyway? He’s about tapping into that piece inside each of us that giving, not receiving, is the real gift. He’s about seeing the smile on someone’s face the moment their hearts are lifted up by a present or a gesture or a kind thought. He’s about celebrating life with hope and joy and youthful innocence.
That’s what Kera wants for me this Christmas. It’s what we all want for everyone we love.
So fourth-graders be damned. I believe because I realize, through the loving gesture of this little girl, that Santa and everything he represents does indeed exist. It never stopped existing.
He probably even thinks reindeer poop is hilarious.
Mark Mahoney is The Gazette’s editorial page editor.