Friday, December 25, 2009

Because I Still Believe in Magic (Merry Christmas to You & Yours!)

As a child, I believed in Santa Claus and magic much longer than most children my age, especially those children growing up in the inner-city. I almost had to.

My parents’ economic situation vacillated wildly between boom and bust; there were times when we had more than plenty while there were others in which we had practically nothing at all, in which we were scraping the bottom of the proverbial bucket.

I didn’t understand it then, and I still, even in adulthood, have not been able to understand it. Both my parents were college educated professional people, so what can explain those rough spots in my childhood when we had practically nothing? Someday I will ask them. But it was during those times of bust that my hope, my faith, my belief in magic, deepened.

I remember one Christmas in particular. I had to have been maybe as old as twelve or thirteen at the time. We were in one of those bust periods. Things had gotten so bad that year that my parents finally gave in and accepted public assistance.

But I guess cabinets stacked with government peanut butter and powdered milk and juice and other foods is better than a cabinet stacked with nothing at all, but I know this weighed heavily on my father, a fiercely proud man. In fact, once I saw my mother bring the food into the house, I knew we had hit rock bottom.

The closer we came to Christmas, the direr our situation became. And the general malaise that had settled over our household worsened when my father drug in the most anemic Christmas tree I had ever seen in an effort to raise our spirits. Instead of lifting our spirits, that tree instead became a symbol of our lack.

So, our mother began to prepare us early for a disappointing Christmas. “Children, I don’t know what kind of Christmas we will have this year,” she would tell us. And because I am the oldest, she would pull me aside and try to explain to me the best she could what was happening so that she might enlist me in tamping down the expectations of my younger brothers and sisters.

And I tried to understand. I did. But I am sure you understand the difficulty of making a child understand something so complex. When I made mention of Santa Claus to my mother, her face at once became a mask of disbelief and pity.

However, in face of such a stark reality, isn’t it only natural that a child should reach for the only surety in his or her life—their naïve but unshakable belief in magic?

On Christmas Eve, my father left the house long before I got up, and I did not see him the whole of the day. My mother sat around wringing her hands and looking forlorn and making hushed phone calls. I spent the day hoping against hope that Santa Claus was real because by this time I realized that only elves and magic could help up at this point.

Late in the evening my father finally called, and after a short hushed phone conversation with him, my mother put my brothers and sisters to bed, let me know that she had to step out for a few, and left me in charge. But the moment she closed the door behind her, I fell fast asleep.

In the morning, I awoke to the smell of a baking ham and greens and other Christmas delectables. I took a second and swallowing the lump in my throat, and not knowing what to expect, but clinging steadfastly to my belief in magic, I quickly and excitedly woke up my brothers and sisters.

When we rushed into the den, there my mother stood wiping her hands on her apron and displaying the biggest smile I had seen on her face for quite some time. “Merry Christmas,” she exclaimed. “Santa Claus has been very good to somebody this morning. But be quiet as possible. You don’t want to wake up your daddy. He’s awfully tired this morning.”

She stepped aside to reveal our little anemic Christmas tree with gifts piled high and wide underneath. And we tore into them with an amazing fervor. And then that afternoon, we had a feast the likes of which we had not seen in quite some time.

Later that night, our faces greasy from leftovers, we debated who should give credit to for such a great Christmas, Santa or Daddy. Perhaps, because I was the oldest, I should have had more sense, but I threw my support solidly behind Santa. Even though I believed, or in the back of my mind suspected, that we had such a wonderful Christmas due to the machinations of my father, I still needed to, had to, cling to my belief in Santa Clause.

I had to believe that there is a propitious force present everywhere and in all things that picks up where your efforts fall far short.

When the chips are stacked against you, when nothing is going your way, and when you have done everything within your power to overcome but nothing seems to be working, perhaps then it is time to remember when we still believed in Santa Claus, when we still believed in magic, and know that somehow something positive will happen, and things will work out in our favor.


underOvr (aka The U) said...

Brother Max,

Like you, I believed in Santa until I was eight. I was always too inquisitive for my mother and grandmother, so their illogical answers necessitated further analysis and investigation on my part.

I think discovering the truth that there were no midnight visits was sobering. It made me sceptical of many myths I thought were true.

I'm glad I discovered it was my Mother (who worked a second job during the holidays) that was responsible for the gifts my brothers and I received.

As a father, I never wanted my children to believe in a delusion, so I never indulged in the Santa Claus Con.

I do believe that one needs faith to carry you through when the going gets rough. I believe that experiencing those moments of hardship teaches us that, trouble don't last always. Things change because, everything is subject to change.

Having faith to believe in God, Santa Claus, magic or whatever you choose to call the rock of your life, affirms that, "you are not discouraged by the circumstances of life." You been there and done that before. That instills a measure of confidence that assures you that "you can make it."


msladydeborah said...

Great post Max.

While I was reading your post my thoughts went back to the years when we would have to work day and night to produce Christmas for our sons. It was hard some years and sometimes it seemed like everything else was trying to suck up the funds for their gifts. But by God's grace-we were able to produce the gifts.

I do not push the concept of Santa. I have a problem with it because I never wanted my children to think that their behavior was the reason why they didn't receive something that they really wanted. And I also have a problem with the concept of giving credit to a White male for the efforts that me and my ex put forth to produce Christmas.

I have been watching my children begin to fulfill the role of producing Christmas for their children. Now they are beginning to realize how much work goes into making that happen. I hear more appreciation for our efforts now that they know what it takes.

joe said...

Um, so are you all saying that there really IS no Santa Clause??? Is that what you're trying to tell me???!!

joe said...

Well, you can all continue in your disbelief. I for one am still holding on to the dream, you poor, poor souls...

The Smoking Ace said...


I am feeling that Santa Claus post because I also have felt the way you are feeling in this post.

Michelle Huxtable said...

I never believed in Santa Claus and I'm not sure if that was a concerted effort on my parents part to never tell me the myth about him or if they just never got around to telling me about this cool dude who brought presents. I like it that way, though. I always gave full credit to my parents (and while maybe selfish) caused me to respect my parents because I knew my behavior towards them directly reflected my Christmas presents!

md20737 said...

We didnt tell our son about Santa bringing gifts. Hes still has no idea about Christmas. But when the time comes im pretty sure we will not include Santa in our explanation. We told Christmas was about celebrating the love you have for your family and friends and giving thanks to having them.

My parents let me believe in Santa for a little while. As a child myself I never expected much on Christmas. I always got that one gift I really wanted,and my mother would fill my stocking with fruits and candies. She would play Christmas music and we would go places to eat. I always loved this time of the year.

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