This post was originally posted in December of 2006, but unfortunately my brain is still at battle, especially during the holidays. The rational, bah-humbug side wants to skip the tree and stockings. However, I also want to make the holiday season magical for my kids, because I’ve found that their wonder can be contagious.
I almost blew it today. I almost told David there was no Santa Claus, or Tooth Fairy, or Easter Bunny. The practical, cynical, depressed side of my brain (the left) challenged the creative, optimistic, slightly manic side (the right) to a duel. For most of the afternoon, the left was winning.
Why am I feeding my kids this Disney, make-believe crap that will make their fall to reality all the more crushing? I asked myself. Why encourage them to dream when they’ll have to wake up to an alarm clock soon enough? The same rational voice who thinks it’s stupid to make a bed in the morning that you sleep in at night, who calls up all family members to say “no gifts this year, right?,” and who doesn’t go grocery shopping because the planet is going to burn up anyway (whether or not we eat) wants to put the kibosh on the whole world of imagination because “life is difficult,” the first three words of Scott Peck’s classic, “The Road Less Traveled.”
But then I saw the sheer delight on my five-year-old’s face as he watched five passenger cars round the corner of a magnificent holiday train display at Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, Maryland. He clearly caught a whiff of the Christmas spirit, as did his little sister who stood in front of the nautical-themed Christmas tree mesmerized by the mermaid ornaments and aqua tinsel.
How could I deprive them of this wonder?
Because think about a world without poetry, art, romance, and (ACK!) Disney. Standing there with David and his trains and Katherine and her mermaid tree, I remembered the words of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church when he answered eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon’s question on whether or not there was a Santa Claus:
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest man that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank GOD! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.