I believed in Santa longer than most. It was a bike that unraveled my belief.
The December that I was in fifth grade, I discovered one of my Christmas presents in the garage. My mother must have lacked the time or space to stash the gift because she was not one to leave presents in discoverable locations. I saw the flash of pink and purple handlebars, and knew I had glimpsed the bike prematurely.
When Christmas morning arrived, the bike was parked by the tree, but instead of a note saying, “Love, Mom and Dad,” the tag read, “Love, Santa.” Even at ten, I knew Santa didn’t have time to make early gift deliveries. The guy couldn’t get away from the North Pole that much. A thread in my childhood innocence was instantly snagged—my mother had purchased the bike and was trying to pass it off as Santa’s doing.
I had stubbornly maintained my belief in Jolly Old Saint Nick to this point despite the teasing of my peers for several years. Most of my friends didn’t believe, and I pitied their loss of faith. But on Christmas Day 1996, it was inescapable. Turns out, my jaded friends were correct; so I made up my mind to confront my mother.
“Santa isn’t real,” I challenged her one January day.
She didn’t brush me off or skirt the conversation. She didn’t insult my intelligence by asking me who I presumed ate the cookies.
“Of course Santa is real. We’re all Santa,” she replied like she’d been rehearsing this moment for years.
Mom’s simple words were cozy and restorative like hot chocolate with extra marshmallows. She affirmed there was no man who crept down chimneys and brought toys to all the children of the world in one night. Instead she shared with me the spirit of Santa, something as real as our bulging stockings on Christmas morning. Now that I knew the big secret, I was privileged to embody that spirit. I became Santa for my sisters and for my parents. I got to be the magic.
My mom reminded me of Christmas when I was four and wished aloud on Christmas Eve for a stuffed animal kitten and how she scavenged numerous stores at 10 p.m. to maintainSanta’s perfect record as the faithful granter of children’s desires. I beamed as I learned about the depth of my parents’ commitment to nurture my belief in magic.
Thrilled to start creating my own magic, I stitched up my belief in Santa, too. I kept listening for sleigh bells every Christmas Eve. When I was twelve, when I was eighteen, when I was twenty-five, last year. I know reindeer won’t land on my roof. But my own squealing children will rise before dawn to discover again that Santa lives to make them happy, And, I’ll swell with joy and a belly full of cookies.
Tell me that’s not magic.
Halley Kim is a nurse and lactation consultant living in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and three kids. Halley blogs at peaceloveandspitup.wordpress.com and published an essay with The Junia Project. Halley’s Twitter handle is @HalleyWKim.