I will always strive to be on Santa’s nice list, for the sole reason that I adore him and all he represents.
And no, not the modern, movie versions that have seen the fable of Father Christmas adapted over and over again. Not Tom Hanks bellowing from a sleigh in creepy animation, and not Tim Allen bumbling around while trying to be a better father.
I am in love with the version I was acquainted with as a young girl. The giving and kind myth of a man that seemed just so likely, and really so likeable, that he became very real to me.
I could truly imagine that there was once a person so moved to help the children, the vulnerable, that he would leave gifts in their shoes at night. How could that not be true? How could each tiny village have the same myth, with so many similarities, and there not be some crimson ribbon of truth tying them all together?
As you probably can surmise, my childhood mind was quickly proving to be imaginative at its very core. As my mom would read us stories of Kris Kringle, I could picture cold, northern European villages coming to life on the page. I could envision a man clothed in draping, deep-red robes, his white beard flowing down to his belly, his basket of treats becoming lighter as he made quick work leaving chocolates behind.
While flying reindeer, an arctic toy factory, elves and traveling the world in one night are all fantastical threads of the story I enjoyed with a knowing wink, the main character was all that mattered to me.
I didn’t need to be prompted to believe in the magic of Christmas. I just knew it existed, and would happen in my own home.
I believed in the good in people, and so Father Christmas was true. I didn’t yet know words like benevolence or philanthropy. But I knew it felt as good to give things as it did to receive them. I loved creating things for my family members, even insisting one year that my mom mail my terrible home baking to my estranged father.
These days, many decades later, it warms my heart to know someone spent time thinking of me. It doesn’t matter what the gift is.
And likewise, I think deep and hard about my gifts for others. It’s not that I’m looking for the perfect gift — I believe there is no such thing. But the act of giving offers us a chance to contemplate our loved ones, to think about their daily lives, and wonder what would make them better somehow. It gives us time to think about how we cherish them, and what they mean to us, and how well we’ve connected over the year, or haven’t.
While I work hard at staying on the nice list, I have a long list of my own that includes my children, my family and a few close friends. The last few weeks I’ve been taking the time to think about our relationships, to connect with them, and to love them up. We’ve talked on the phone more, shopped together, shared meals, made plans and reminisced.
My adult children and I have contributed to a hamper program, choosing LEGO sets we love. Those gifts will be given to children who may not get anything else on Christmas morning. We hope they will end up with children who will continue to believe in Santa Claus, which of course, means to believe in the good in people.
I can say with authority, as a true believer, that there is no greater gift for a child.
Merry Christmas, and I hope your holidays are filled with moments of stories, memories, and perhaps even a little bit of magic.