Originally posted in 2007, or, as we refer to it, "Ben's Year of Reckoning."
My favorite holiday story.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Last January, one of Ben's non-believing friends revealed his parents’ dirty little secret to the rest of the class: that Santa is not real, and that parents – not a jolly old elf in a red suit - puts the presents under the tree. My first instinct - spawned from fear and denial - was to dismiss it out of hand.
“Well, that’s just crazy talk,” I said, kneading the bread dough a little harder than necessary.
Ben looked at me for a long time, and then turned to leave the kitchen. I fooled myself into believing the tempest had been averted. But later on that night, he got really upset. He walked into the living room bedroom well after his bedtime. He sat in my lap in front of the fire, and said,
"Part of my brain tells me I believe in Santa, and part of my brain tells me it's the parents."
It was time to come clean. In my defense, I hit him with the whole song-and-dance: Santa is real because he lives in our hearts, the magic of Christmas is still alive because Ben gets to help it live on in Finn...
None of that worked.
After an hour, Ben was understanding of the reality, but told me,
"I wish I didn't know."
That night, my big kid cried himself to sleep.
He went to school the next morning with swollen eyes and a sullen demeanor. By the time he came home, however, he had worked some excitement about the fact that next year, he gets to help play Santa for Finn by helping with Finn’s letter to Santa, nibbling the cookies we set out for Santa, and placing the presents under the tree after Finn falls asleep.
We all moved on.
A week later, Ben walked into the kitchen with a very odd look on his face - knowledge mixed with some sort of odd smugness - and declared,
"Hold on. If you guys are Santa, then that means you are also the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy."
And there it was. The other shoe.
This evening, almost an entire year after the events recounted above, we were all in the boys' room, looking out on the softly falling snow and commenting on the gorgeous frost patterns on the window. We had been reading Finn’s favorite book, a picture book edition of Little House in the Big Woods. In the story, Ma Ingalls tells the girls that Jack Frost comes on cold nights to create the intricate frost patterns on the windows and the girls use her thimble to trace patterns on the window. Ben watched Finn make an ‘F’ in the frost with his fingertip, and looked at me knowingly. He smiled and said, under his breath,
"Well, at least THAT ONE can’t be you...."
Happy Holidays, everyone.