Season of Santa
These were taken last December. My niece will be 5 years old on December 23rd. It’s a blessing beyond any words I am capable of pecking out on a social media status update that we are able to have this little moppet with us for another year. Life can be so feeble and so delicate, as we have seen in the media in recent days, weeks, months. You must always be thankful for each second you have with your loved ones. As always, my family’s health and happiness is the most precious of presents that I can ask for each and every year.
However, there is something a touch sad about rushing through the holidays the way we, as a society, have become conditioned to. Perhaps, I was a little too affected by the “never grow up” mindset of the titular Peter Pan and the Lost Boys depicted on-screen in yesterday evening’s live televised event of the J.M. Barrie classic. Or maybe it’s the incantations of the Toys R Us commercials of yesteryear reverberating within the caverns of my cranium–“I don’t want to grow up. I’m a Toys R Us kid.” Or perhaps it’s a slight tinge of Grinch green envy of being too old, too wise and too jaded to indulge in certain aspects of this particular season. Maybe an amalgam of all the aforementioned.
Regardless of the reasons, the fact remains that we are now screaming down the tracks of the Polar Express with a one way ticket to the realization that the North Pole is a destination that will never be reached. In about two years– this concept of a singular entity being responsible for delivering gifts to all of the world’s “good” kids will be shattered by a child’s intuition, logic and reasoning developmental skills sharpening, blabbermouth peers, the Internet or by just wanting to grow up a smidgen faster than we would like.
All of it is just a part of the process of aging. It’s an inevitability. But, I believe that being able to so harmlessly pull the red satin hat over their eyes and deafen and quell their innate suspicions with jingle bells and elves on shelves is one of the greatest joys we are bestowed with during a child’s youth. It’s a little gift that we are given to inject just that much more personal excitement (on both ends) into an already thrilling time of the year.
I understand that not everyone chooses to indulge in this way. I know that not everyone is comfortable with the entire concept of Saint Nicholas. I am equally aware that many do not even celebrate Christmas for a myriad of reasons. And that is OK! This wasn’t composed to incite scrutiny or to stir up latent hostilities or ruffle and rile your inner Scrooge. Yule have to kindly exit stage right and let me revel in the yore and yarns of the season.
However, I write this with a bittersweet mindset of wanting her to continue to develop and grow in such a brilliant fashion, while still yearning for a few more blissfully oblivious years of buying into a truly magical concept rather than buying into, well, the buying and selling capitalistic culture that is so omnipresent. She doesn’t need to know that yet! Thankfully, this year, barring any tragic occurrence, she won’t. But, soon… it will come crashing down as deflation, destruction, devastation and the defeat of innocuous idealistic idolism occurs with one fell swoop. And with that revelation…we, as a family, selfishly lose a bit of the infectious enthusiasm that comes hand in hand with having a kiddo in the family running afoot.–
That ear-muffed, rose colored glasses wearing, wide-eyed tiny human serves as our beacon of hope–a flesh and blood incarnation of innocence, and wielder of endless cheer amidst a backdrop of cynicism, injustice and despair.
When you have a four-almost-five year old whispering her singular want for the year (a Paw Patrol toy that she is getting!) to the 34th street Santa in Manhattan…. in your life… you can’t help but be momentarily engulfed and swept up in the splendor of the holiday.. Even the coldest and darkest of hearts can be thawed by igniting a spark of that inner spirit and sparkle that burned with such passion when you were of a similar age. You smile and you melt into a puddle of peppermint syrup and saccharine sentimentality. You are blinded by the twinkling lights, intoxicated by the cocoa and candy, you hum carols in your head and you remember that despite all of the negatives saturating your daily lives– there is the beauty of an untarnished canvas right there in front of you. They are formulating their memories that they will cherish and hold dear for the rest of their lives and hopefully pass on to their children in the future.
These rosy cheeked cherubs (or imps, depending on the time you ask) are the torch carriers that will determine the course of their generation. What a wonderful thing to be able to aid in such an immeasurably important task! You are shaping and sharing this period of their development with them! You are their role models and the holidays serve as another opportunity to teach them a solid set of morals and other important lessons: the gift of giving, the art of being polite, the act of sharing, the oft overlooked trait of tact and the importance of patience, the notion that all actions have consequences–both positive and negative, and that sometimes realities will fall very short of expectations.
Unless your holiday fare is filled with marathons of “Wall Street” leaving children with visions of Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is Good” dancing in their heads… your little one will be picking up on early cues of what the season is really all about. It’s an incredibly stressful time for everyone. And if you pay attention to the news– it’s a tragic and scary time for all–some more so than others. And I do not want to take away from that. Shielding children from facts, of course, not my intention here. They should be abreast of the happenings in the world and aware that life is not always fair
But, remember that there is always a ticking clock on the magic of this particular holiday that will melt away with the snow one year soon– and will never be able to be recaptured in its entirety. While it is 100 percent true that the lights will never lose their luster, the freshly cut firs will be ever fragrant, and gifts will always be a true menace to wrap in time (no matter how far in advance they are purchased!)– the traditions and enjoyment will be eternal BUT, this one part of just believing in the unbelievable…. will be boxed up as nothing but a memory….stored away in the attic forever Enjoy it. Treasure it.
I realize that every family is different. That’s part of what makes the holiday season SO special: the traditions. We all have them. And perhaps I care so much because they are so intrinsic to our Smith clan’s celebration of Christmas. Maybe it is because my grandpa was THE Santa Claus at the store we visited growing up. Maybe it was because I was up on the roof of my grandparent’s house stapling lights into shingles with my dad and cousin, untangling strings of half burnt out bulbs, and living in what I believed to be a literal winter wonderland since I was very young. Maybe it is that I fell asleep each night of the season dressed snugly in themed flannels, my mind filled to the brim with illustrations and imagery from holiday classics, my window saturated with the soft glow of twinkles from the proud adornments and decor dancing in the yard outside, and my belly always full of goodies, treats and cocoa lovingly presented to me by my parents. Maybe it’s because they encouraged creativity and instilled imagination in my sister and I from day one and went above and beyond to make sure that Christmas was spectacularly special for the two of us. It was not something to shrug off or sneer at, but to relish and to revel in the reveries. We were egged on to drink the proverbial punch (or non-alcoholic eggnog!) and suspend disbelief, if only for a few measly magnificently marvelous and magical weeks. Maybe it is because everyone in our family still harbors an unapologetic and unabashed ardor and zest for that Christmas cheer deep within the confines of their own hearts. Maybe it is because even now when I close my eyes and reminisce of family get-togethers from past Decembers, an overwhelming and undeniable sense of warm contentment blankets and consumes me–acting as both an insulator of happiness and as a shield from the harsh bitterness of the outside world’s realities. I might, in fact, be a direct descendant of the Claus crew. Anything is possible.
For Caitlin Noel…. right now…anything is truly possible.
She will learn, sooner rather than later, that life is full of disappointment, sadness, heartache and betrayal. But, right now… reindeer fly and on Christmas morning…. the tree will be lit, the cookies and milk will be consumed with a handwritten note of appreciation left from the big man himself, glossily wrapped presents will be strewn across the floor and a flurry of Kodak moments will inevitably ensue. Hugs, tears, laughter and smiles will etch themselves into your internal scrapbook. Let them. Live vicariously through that indescribable youthful fervor for fun and festivities. Try to catch their charmingly effervescent contagion. For there is truly nothing purer than the joyful spirit that these youngsters have gleaming organically within them.
Whip out the advent calendar and embrace the sheer enjoyment of every day during this all too short of seasons. Mark down the moments of merriment and try to formulate the most positive memories you possibly can. Yes it’s stressful. Yes, it is draining. Yes, it is exhausting. But, every second of duress and distress will become an afterthought when you witness the whimsical wonderment appear on your loved one’s face. Nothing is better or more worth it than being an active participant in injecting cheer into a child’s soul.
Remember to reminisce and recall the most famous reindeer of all. Let loose and let go. Say yes more than no. Replace the iphones and ipads with ice rinks and icicles. Embrace the red and the green– the tinsel and holly. Be happy. Be merry. Be overly jolly. But, let’s make one thing clear, don’t you go and be naughty! This day only comes but once every year, so replace all the chaos with nothing but cheer. Teach that it’s not what comes in the sled, but more the things that you’ve done and you’ve said . Share your traditions with the young and indulge in their fun. The best part of the season is not wrapped up in a bow. It’s not the wanting or getting nor sledding in snow. It is the glint, gleam and glimmer and sparkle in their eyes. The giving, the sharing, those are the highs. So sit back and enjoy. But, don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Savor the beauty and soak up all the Christmas.