Colleen is 11 and had been hearing some crud about how some people don't believe in Santa for quite a while. I would say to her what my mother always said to me, "Santa is the Spirit of Christmas". It is a true statement and moves the child along who still has hope in their hearts. Unfortunately, on Friday, a substitute teacher told her plainly that there wasn't a Santa Claus, and a very sad and agitated Colleen came home to me.
As I leaned against her, side by side on a couch, and held her cheek against my shoulder, I explained that though a man doesn't come down the chimney and that I'm the one that bring her her gifts, Santa is the feeling I get when she opens her presents. Santa is in the excitement she and her siblings share all December. Santa is in the cutting down of our tree and is laced in every memory brought back by an ornament or Christmas decoration.
"Christmas is all heart, Colleen. And that is where Santa lives. He is real."
Santa is in the golden harp ornament my best friend, Stephanie, gave me the year that so many of my own ornaments smashed after my tree fell.
Santa is in the creche that Lisa bought for my kids a few years ago when I told her that one of them was curious about the the Christ in Christmas.
Santa is in Rebecca inviting us over to watch her family light the Menorah.
And then, yesterday, when a co-worker, Robin, heard about the spilled beans, she left a bell from the Polar Express in my mailbox for me to give Colleen. I ran up to her classroom and, with warning that I was about to do it, hugged her for understanding this sadness, for thinking of us, and for expressing the true meaning of the season. We teared up talking to one another about keeping dreams alive for our children. I said to her "THIS is Santa Claus!", gesturing to our emotion and to her kindness.
This weekend when I said it was time to formalize our letters to Santa, Colleen lead the charge. She turns on the Christmas tree. She is watching every streamable christmas show and movie. She came to me, pained, not being able to choose which present to get her sister and could she please give both. "It is the spirit of Christmas, right?" she twinkled at me. She has lost nothing more than an image of Christmas, keeping the meaning alive and thriving.
I always feel love and appreciation for those around me who hold me up, warm me, and care for me and my family. It is just that this time of year that when I feel it, it feels like a belly that's a bowl full of jelly, a twinkle in the eye, and a rosy cheeked laugh.
Santa is real.
And now we have the sweetest 11 year old elf helping to keep our spirit and love of the holiday alive.