Can you remember the time when you truly believed in Santa Claus?
When you knew beyond a doubt that the stories were true, that he actually flew from house to house delivering presents?
I know I can.
Growing up, Santa always came on Christmas Eve. There was no sleeping and waiting for Christmas morning. No waking up and running down stairs to see if he came again that year.
Wait. Before you start to judge, or think that I didn’t get to experience the magic…
I will argue that I experienced more magic than most.
Most of my Christmas Eve’s run together, as they do for most of us. But I have one. One night that, to this day, makes me stop and wonder for just a moment if Santa could actually be real.
I must have been about 5 years old. Come to think of it, it’s probably the first Christmas that I remember.
When I look back, there was every reason for me to have the veil lifted on the entire Santa Claus “thing.” Because not only am I the baby in my family… I am also a mistake. Sorry, my mom hates that… I was an unplanned surprise that happened to turn out as the most funny, gifted, handsome, and tallest son in my family.
Anyway, my siblings must have had every opportunity to spoil the magic. But, they didn’t. For that, I am grateful.
(Side note: my siblings are awesome, I have always felt included despite being a decade behind.)
On this particular Christmas Eve, we were at another family’s home overlooking the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York.
I don’t remember the evening or what we had for dinner. I don’t remember what I did to keep myself occupied without another person my age in the house.
What I do remember is it being late. I remember the snow making the night a little brighter. I remember everyone happy and laughing. And, I remember the sleigh bells.
Out of no where there were sleigh bells. Faint, but there they were. Outside the house (on the roof?), the undeniable sound of sleigh bells.
It’s really him!
Before we know the truth, there is always a piece of us that is skeptical. The story is far fetched, that is obvious even to a five year-old. But, we search for every excuse to believe. We choose to believe in the unbelievable because it is much more exciting than knowing your parents bought, wrapped, and placed your presents under the tree.
Remember, this is before the all of the Santa tracker apps and websites. Sleigh bells outside were my tracker. Sleigh bells outside.
He is here. He is actually here delivering presents!
Of course, everybody at the party took the opportunity to feed into my excitement.
“Do you hear that, Timmy?”
“It sounds like he is headed for your house.”
“If you hurry home, maybe you can catch him.”
We got in the Aerostar van and started our way home. I can’t imagine I was tolerable. The van could not go fast enough.
We finally got home.
I ran to the front door. I ran through the house to the living room.What I found was nothing short of a miracle to my young eyes.
Four neat piles were set up in different areas of the living room. One for my sister, two for each of my brothers and, most importantly, one for me.
I can’t remember any of my presents, except for one. It was a Gonzo stuffed animal from The Muppets (I must have liked him?). He was sitting on the arm of the black sofa, placed so deliberately… so carefully that I knew it could only have been Santa that placed my toys in that pile.
But, it wasn’t about the presents. Not that night.
Leading away from the fireplace were snowy, wet boot prints.
On the coffee table sat a half drank mug of milk and an empty plate that was previously adorned with cookies.
I had proof beyond a reasonable doubt that not only was Santa real, but he had visited my house and delivered my presents.
Obviously, one of my parents had left the party early to put on this ruse but that was lost on me.
As I write this, I can feel a part of me that still believes (thanks to this 4th glass of red wine). There is a part of me that still isn’t quite convinced that it wasn’t Santa.
I love that feeling.
We all love that feeling.
With all of the non-sense that clouds up our lives on a day to day basis, I think it is important that we all remember these simple pleasures.
Yes, there are terrorists in the world that want to kill us.
Yes, Donald Trump exists.
Yes, we have issues that we believe in and want to convince the rest of the world that our opinion is the right one.
Yes, we (most of us) go to jobs that drive us crazy and make us want to give up.
But, in sixteen short days it will be Christmas Eve. And, for millions of kids around the world, the magic is starting to build as they wait and hope for Santa’s visit.
Yes, that is amazing.
Yes, we should all do what we can to encourage that belief in magic.
And, no, of course Santa isn’t real.
Of course, he doesn’t have flying reindeer.
And no, it’s not possible for him to visit kids all over the world.
But… Maybe, just maybe…
Cheers to believing.