“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Never did those classic reassuring words first printed in “The New York Sun” in 1897 ring truer than the Christmas I was 6–though I wouldn’t realize or appreciate it until much later.
As would become tradition, my family spent Christmas Eve with my maternal grandparents that year. And my brother and I would face a familiar dilemma: Would Santa visit our house if we weren’t there? We were convinced that we had to return home early in order for him to properly pay us a visit.
Surely he was making his rounds then, we thought, and we didn’t think he would take time out of his busy schedule to stop at an empty house. Thus, the urgency to return, to drift into an anxious sleep and assure ourselves that our goodness throughout the year would be appropriately rewarded.
But, my poor grandfather, likely feeling greatly outnumbered by a 6- and a 3-year-old, had blockaded us in another room, trying to occupy us with television. Until, of course, we decided something was going on in secret that we must know about.
Then the signal came–the jingling of bells. Standing in the living room, my mother yelled for us to come. As we rushed to freedom, we saw my grandparents’ tree surrounded with our gifts. He had found us after all!
That, however, would be a slight distraction from the excitement outside–Santa, we were told, was just about to leave. Before we could open the door, the sound of bells drifted off until there was silence.
But the indisputable evidence that he was there remained: sleigh tracks still fresh in the dirt driveway and gold strands of tinsel that had obviously fallen off his cargo. We had just missed him!
Only later did we realize that Santa’s “appearance” was the work of a certain group of elves: our loving family. Maybe few other moments have been as special or made so profound an impact.
Since that early Christmas, my brother and I never had another near-miss so exciting. But we truly experienced the magic the holidays can hold, and those memories will last a lifetime.
So whether you’re 8 or 80, rest assured that, yes, there is a Santa Claus. His spirit lives through acts of love, generosity and devotion, despite the heartbreak and disappointment that seems to cloak the world at times. Maybe that memory is why I so fiercely believe that good exists.
And if you haven’t experienced the spirit of jolly old elf as I have, then I hope you are fortunate enough to find and be blessed by it this holiday season.