We’re driving home from a wonderful playdate. Big Girl is ensconced in the back seat. I’m asking her what she did for more than five hours. (The girls play so nicely together extended playdates are possible.) She tells me about how they put on a play and how they made gift bags for Santa, complete with a present for Mrs. Claus, a collar for Rudolph, and tissues in case Santa has a cold. Then comes the question, “Mommy, is Santa really real?”
Um. Uggg. Sheesh. Thankfully, I notice that my cell phone has a missed call, and I grab the handset to dial my husband back. “Hold on, Daddy just tried to call me like ten times and it’s probably important.” She gets indignant. “I always ask you and you never answer. Why won’t you answer me? Is he real?” I get caught up on the phone with my husband, who has Little Girl in his arms crying for me. Why are you crying, I ask her. “Because I need you, Mommy,” she says. By the time I calm the little one down the big one has forgotten her question. Or maybe she just senses that I don’t want to answer.
And yet now, after thinking about it I realize that I was wrong. Completely wrong. I should have told her that Santa is real. That every time someone does something kind for someone else, every time someone is selfless, Santa is there. That Santa makes Christmas sweeter. As Francis Pharcellus Church explained in the September 21, 1897 edition of the New York Sun, Santa “exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.”
And so now I wait until the next time she asks (And she will. She’s my daughter, cut from the same cloth as I am) so I can redeem myself.