All year, somewhere in the back of my mind, on my mental To Do list (just below Write a Top 40 Hit Song, but well above Eat More Whole Foods) I recognized that this was the year I needed to talk to my daughter, Abbie, about Santa Claus.
I sensed there was already some doubt in her mind, as she had been relentless all through the last Christmas season in hunting down clues as to the alleged existence of one Mr. Kris Kringle. She even took that final, only semi-rational, step of scientific bargaining, where one produces the theory of “Well, maybe Santa could get gifts to all the children of the world if he timed his magical night flight with the rotation of the world and was in different hemispheres at different times, staying ahead of the daylight as he delivers his toys to all good girls and boys.”
One magical showing of Elf, though, and her fears were quashed for the remainder of the season. But she had brought it up several times over the last few months.
“Is Santa real?” she would ask, in front of her younger, still-vulnerable brothers and sister.
“Who wants some ice cream?!” was usually my response. And – poof – the question disappeared.
But I knew the time was coming. And in my mind, I pictured that coming-of-age, heartbreaking moment to take place one night, as I would be tucking her into bed. And as the moonlight came through her window and outlined her face, I would see her puzzled expression. I’d wait for it, and she would ask. “Dad…are you Santa Claus?” “Well, Sweetie,” I would answer, “there’s a bit of Santa Claus and Christmas magic in all of us.” And the next morning, over our pumpkin pancakes, we would look at each other, and it would be understood.
Instead, it went down like this: I got a phone call at work.
“Hey, Dad, it’s Abbie.”
“Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I know you and Mom are Santa.”
“Oh…(complete silence) Did Mom have a talk with you about it?”
“No. I read it in a book. Superfudge.”
Oh, Judy Blume! I have never wanted to slap you more! Fie upon you, Judy! Fie! A thousand curses on your family! Oh sure, you may have brought me a couple of laughs in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – oh, absolutely, you conjured up new and confusing emotions in my soul with the kissing scene in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret – but when you tell my daughter there is no Santa Claus before I’M ready to tell her?! Oh, Judy…
“Are you okay?” I ask, my voice trembling.
“Yeah,” she answers flatly.
“How do you feel about it?”
“I feel like…thanks for the violin that was actually from you and Mom last year.”
“You’re welcome. Was it fun believing in Santa? Did you think it was an exciting idea, or do you feel like you were tricked?”
“Oh, I liked it. I thought it was a lot of fun. I didn’t feel tricked.”
“Well, good. So you’ll help us keep it fun for your brothers and sister?”
“Do you see how Santa symbolizes so many good things about Christmas?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“And when you’re older, will you understand why Daddy had to burn down Judy Blume’s house?”