Sunday, March 8, 2009

Is There Something Wrong with Believing in Santa Claus?

Some jerky kid told my younger daughter, "Belle", that there's no such thing as Santa Claus.

As a result, many people are trying to convince her that the child in question got misinformation. My entire family is going crazy trying to find all the things she asked the mall big-guy-in-the-red-suit before that little turd ruined it. Pythagorus and I found her a sled "big enough to ride on with Addie" (Addie is my older daughter), per Belle's request. My mom pretty much bought out the Polly Pocket section at Toys 'R' Us. My sister Mary, who lives in Florida where they sell bathing suits all year round, has been searching desperately for a Finding Nemo bathing suit (Belle does not like change--she's had a Finding Nemo bathing suit for the past three or four years, getting a new one as she gets bigger).

It goes beyond my biological family, though. For example, Belle's babysitter managed to set up a phone conversation between Belle and Santa when her husband called to let her know that the local AM radio station was having "Santa" available for an hour's worth of phone calls on their Open Mic program. Well, Belle thought that was wonderful; I was especially touched where she wanted to make sure he knew that "My sister has been a good girl this year, too." The funniest part was that Pythagorus was on an errand from work and happened to be listening to the radio, and he heard a little girl that sounded an awful lot like Belle talking to Santa. The look on his face when he found it it was, in fact, the princess herself was priceless.

But I remain concerned about two issues.

The first, and more personal to me, is that Belle isn't just a bright little girl, she is relentless. I think we've saved it for this year, I truly do, and I deeply appreciate the family and friends who have played a role in helping us out with this. The problem is, Belle inherited her father's logical brain, so a seed has been planted that she will work over and over in her brain and eventually reach the inevitable conclusion.

The second, and bigger problem in general, bothers me more. Why is it that kids glorify so in bursting someone else's happiness? Who teaches them those lessons? Is this just more of the human nature that drives me crazy?

One of my earliest memories is from a day when I was probably younger than Belle. My dad was unloading the dishwasher, and I asked him point blank, "Santa isn't real, is he?" He hemmed and hawed (he's a lawyer, he's very good at the hems and the haws) but finally gave in since I was pretty adamant (I don't remember how I found out, incidentally). He did ask one thing of me: "Just don't tell your brother." I didn't. My brother Adam (four and a half years older than me, by the way) steadfastly believed in Santa Claus until he was ten or eleven.

If a little shit like me (and I was by all accounts pretty evil as a child) could keep that surprise for her siblings, there's no reason that others can't show some respect for others and let them hold onto that little piece of magic. Part of me wants to say it's in the raising, but my raising wasn't exactly beautiful ... although I choose to give to my parents the fact that, when push came to shove, my values and morals and better nature--all learned, if piecemeal, from them--were basically good.

This might seem naive, but I actually do believe that Santa Claus does exist. I mean this with all sincerity. No, I'm not delusional but, as an aspiring writer, I've developed a pretty decent gift for observing human behavior. Why is it that, around the holidays, people donate money they don't have to the Salvation Army? How come so many people, many of them desperately poor themselves, donate hundreds of canned goods to the local food pantry? What does it mean that I just read a letter to the editor of my local newspaper depicting an incident where an obviously struggling woman had her purchases paid for by the lady in front of her in line? Donations to Toys for Tots and other similar causes? Handwritten Christmas cards? The number of people going out of their way to find that one perfect gift to give to a loved one?

Some people call it the Christmas spirit. I choose to call it Santa Claus.