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Small Town Santa Redux


Thing2 was feeling a little down about the upcoming holidays and couldn’t put his finger on exactly why. 

I asked if he was looking forward to seeing Grandma and Grandpa again. He said yes, but he still couldn’t get happy. I asked if he was happy about presents and Santa. He rolled his eyes and said, “Mom, there’s no Santa.”

Suddenly I felt a little sad. I knew he’d been suspicious for the last few years, but he’d been willing to play along. It was easy to keep him believing a few extra years, thanks to our small town Santa rituals, but every kid reaches that age when the illusion is gone.   It was sad when it happened with T1, and, knowing T2’s ‘lasts’ are really the lasts, it was pretty sad last week.

Thing1 enjoys helping to play Santa on Christmas Eve as much as he enjoyed playing into the story, but until tonight, finding the magic on the other side of the myth was still nebulous for Thing2.

It was still on both our minds the other night when we took him to his elementary school’s holiday concert. 

T2 loves singing, and the music quickly chased away his melancholy.  His chorus group sang three songs, then he sang a few numbers with the rest of the fourth grade and the other ‘upper schoolers’, and all the kids were smiling. 

The concert wrapped up with the kindergartners and preschoolers belting out Christmas standards.  Singing with the kind of uninhibited joy that only a group of devout Santa-believing five- and six-year-olds can channel, they were rewarded for their enthusiasm with a surprise visit from the big guy. Not the Big Guy — the big guy in the red suit.

This year’s small town Santa strode down the middle aisle of the gym-turned-concert-hall and snagged the microphone from the music teacher. Songs now turned to screams of glee. The tiny performers forgot their cues and started jumping up and down and waving at Santa.

Santa assured all the kids that they were all on the nice list and hinted that a teacher or two was teetering on the edge of the naughty list.  He solidified his bonafides by naming recognizable names, and the older elementary students sitting on the sidelines grinned and laughed. Thing2 was beaming, and I noticed he was watching not Santa, but the kindergartners.  It was as if he suddenly realized that he was now a co-conspirator in the care and feeding of a holiday myth.

His ambivalence seemed to vanish in the dark as we walked through the muddy parking lot to our car, and now I’m thinking, when the time comes,  he’ll enjoy playing Santa as much as he used to enjoy leaving out the milk and cookies. (And we haven’t even told him what happens to the cookies once Santa is done).