Saturday, January 4, 2014

Is Santa Real?

Snooping in my mother's closet one day, I stretched up to retrieve one of her purses from the shelf that was above her clothes rod. I opened her handbag, and took in the smell of lipstick and DoubleMint gum. There on the bottom of the bag, hidden by the rumpled tissues, was a collection of small foil-wrapped teeth. So THIS is where the Tooth Fairy stored our teeth. Hey, wait a minute!

That was the first of several experiences that made me doubt the magic of childhood, and I became an investigative reporter, asking questions about the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, and, most importantly,  the jolly old man in the big red suit. 

Could he be real, if the others weren't? Hoping against hope, I went in search of answers. The logistics of these holiday heroes created confusion in my mind. I WANTED to believe in them all, especially Santa, but evidence was mounting that I had been duped.

My mom was in her bedroom, busily sewing a few weeks before Christmas. I was in fourth grade, and my parents were newly divorced. I lay face-down on Mom's bed, propping up my chin in my hands. 

"Mom..." I began tentatively.

"Yes," she absent-mindedly responded, adjusting the fabric on her sewing machine table.

"Is Santa Claus real? I mean, is he REALLY real?" I asked, hoping he was; knowing he couldn't be.

"Of course, he's real. Santa Claus brings presents to all of the good little girls and boys around the world. If you don't believe in Santa, he won't bring you presents. You want him to bring you presents, don't you?"

Well, of course, I did. I asked several specific questions, trying to catch her in her deception, and she fielded them deftly, but I was still unsatisfied. It was time for a second opinion.

Daddy, Danny, and me
The next time we were with Daddy, I waited for my opportunity to ask him, and being a good sister; this time, anyway, I made sure the boys weren't with us.

"Daddy, is Santa Claus REALLY real?"

He cleared his throat, adjusted his glasses, and blinked a few times. "Princess," he began, "the thing you need to understand about Santa Claus is that he represents the spirit of Christmas."

Do you know what my sweet dad did? He told me the truth. And he told it in the most loving way imaginable. Daddy said the CONCEPT of Santa was very real. Santa represented love and giving. Many people, especially parents, want to perpetuate those wonderful traditions, and they keep the spirit of Christmas alive by acting on Santa's behalf. There are many people who are Santa's helpers, so to speak, who do the work of the beloved legend. Mommies and daddies love their children, and want them to enjoy the tradition of Santa, so they buy the presents, and they give them to their little ones. The outward signs of Santa (pillow tummies under cheap red suits, awkward artificial beards, and black boots) are not nearly as important as what is on the inside that represents the spirit of Santa; the giving and loving.

Dear Old Dad, around 2012.  Photo Credit: Natalie Beidler Mayhew

Daddy let me know that it's always a good thing to believe in the spirit of Christmas; we never want that to end. And it was also okay for me to not believe in the North Pole, and a man who traveled around the entire world in one night to stop at every child's house, delivering presents to good girls and boys. 

True to form, my dad made me feel good about my questions, and even better about myself. 

Santa represents loving and giving, just like my dad. 


  1. Poor Talmage found out in First Grade. He asked Mark about the tooth fairy and it kind of led into Santa and Mark not wanting to lie to Talmage told him something but Talmage has held a bit of a grudge about it since. Even after I knew that Talmage knew (it certainly helped in the money department) I also said as long as you believe then Santa will still bring you presents so you can still believe. I also told him that I still believe in Santa (after all he was based on a real person as well as the wonderful things your Daddy told you) and then I always end it by telling him that Scott Calvin is Santa (Tim Allen from the Santa Clause...). Wonderful memories Denise...thanks for sharing always.

    1. You are so welcome. Poor Talmage...always older than his years.

  2. This is wonderful. I have some friends who have children asking these questions ... will refer them to your blog!

    1. Thank you, Carol. Finally, I can cheerily wish you a VERY Happy New Year!

  3. As always, hit the spot....a very tender spot. Since I was the youngest child in a large family I found out very young and all at once. I remember the devastating feeling of all the "magic" gone, tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, all at once. Brothers can be brutal. I loved having children and recreating the true magic of the holidays for them.

    1. I think we all remember when we learned the truth. Having children of my own made the magic come back for me, though. Now for the grandbabies...


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