Some parents have this idea about telling their young kids that Santa Claus is not real.
I don’t get it.
My own family wasn’t really churchy when I was growing up — and as the years went by, I eventually managed to finagle my way into being one of those Easter/Christmas worshippers, only showing up for the Big Dances, y’all, for the World Series and the Super Bowl of Christian holidays. But one thing is for certain: I used to come out of church on Christmas Eve shaking, freaking out, borderline peeing my nice Sears pants.
We’d all pour out onto the street after the candle light service — and I can still recall the high, the rush. It’s a very real thing and I don’t care if you’re the Pope or an Atheist to the bone: When human beings light a slew of candles together and sing Silent Night/Holy Night/All is calm/All is bright, something spectacular happens. I can’t describe it. That’s the beauty of the thing. You either show up and experience it at least a time or two in your life or you don’t. But if you do, be prepared — like 15 seconds into the whole thing, the world will split open right there under the pews and trillions of unseen souls will come up out of the deep cold dirt and massage your scalp for you for a bit.
Anyway, that’s how I felt until it was time to shut the service down and go home. Then, while everyone else was feeling really really good, I would step outside in the cold suburban air and look up at the sky like a battleship radar on the vast night sea.
And the question filling my brain was: Where is he?
Oh dear Baby Jesus, please don’t let him be here above our town now, not while I’m still standing here outside this stupid church!! If Santa Claus flew over at that moment in time, at like 8:53pm on Christmas Eve, and saw young Serge Bielanko standing there on the sidewalk, not tucked into his bed, fast asleep like he wanted to be, then I just knew that the fat man would keep on flying right by our little house and he would probably flip me the bird from his sleigh and leave me nothing under the tree but the same awful empty space that was always sitting there in the middle of our boring living room every other damn day of the year.
I was mortified by Santa Claus.
And, in so many ways, it was probably the coolest feeling I’ve ever known.
Magic, by many modern magicians’ definitions, is usually an attempt at some sort of “personal spiritual growth.” I like that. It makes sense to me in so many ways. See, whether it’s a Las Vegas slight of hand or a more personal experience like, I dunno, waking up in full levitation three feet above your mattress, there is always some element of wonderful inexplicableness that comes along with magic, itself. Even stories and songs — heck, even doughnuts, the really really good ones — they can have this ethereal magical element to them that stays with us long after the actual experience is over, you know?
Great vacations, falling in love, sublime sex … there are so may things that happen to us as adults in this world that we turn around and describe as magical. That’s a really good thing, I think. You probably have magical memories you wouldn’t trade for anything, right? Me, too. Who doesn’t? I hope everybody has a few at least. Especially kids. They deserve magic most of all.
Of all the magic I have ever known then, (and I believe I’ve known my share), nothing has ever struck me/or lingered on in my heart, or dangled off of my brain/or danced, so often, in and out of my attempts to grow older with a smile on my face, than the magic that came along in the first 10 years or so of my life, when I believed, with every fiber in my being, that Santa Claus was a very real dude.
My mom, I owe her everything.
She lied to me so bad.
She told me that Santa was watching me through secret crystal balls and tiny cameras in the ceiling at the supermarket when I was being a pain in the butt. She would start mentioning Santa to my younger brother and me at Halloween, name-dropping him like she had a real “in” with the most magnificent character who ever lived. In so many ways, I suppose, she abused the Santa myth to maximum advantage. She threatened us, sabotaged our enchanted visions of the best morning of the year with her words, which, when they slammed into us, were silent, gritty black-and-white film depictions of nothingness or coal.
We were still young kids, young boys. Our behavior rarely reacted to even the Santa threats. But still. It made us sit up and consider things for a while. It made us alert and leery. Santa Claus was watching us — the most magnificent lie known to mankind — and the very thought of it made us feel so incredibly alive that I cannot for an instant, fathom anything even remotely comparable to the power and the magnitude of the whole thing. Who knew?
Of course, you can’t have this fear of Santa’s hair trigger activity without loving him immensely too. My mom understood that. In fact, she specialized in it; we were immersed in Santa glory from the time we were born: books, decorations, once-a-year TV specials, all of it.
What a gift.
What a magnificent experience to look back on, to call my own.
Look. You can say what you want, but believing in Santa Claus might be the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m dead serious. It made me realize that the world that gets created up in my head is every bit as real and as important as the one laid out before my eyes.
And I still feel it, man. I just do. It rides shotgun with me in June, stands beside me in the spring, in the fall. And yeah, you know it. I still shiver on Christmas Eve as I tell my young kids the same damn lies, as I read them the same Christmas books, and as I help them lay out the cookies and milk and carrot on the kitchen table.
How can any of that be wrong? How can any of that be misguided or even just a waste of time? How different would my life have been had Santa never been a part of it?
Time is wasting away on its own, you see. And what little we have, we ought to soak it in magic til it’s sopping and dripping with beautiful, lovely lies. Lie to you kids as much as possible, as long as you possibly can. Feed the fire in their eyes, throw thick streams of gas on the sparks in there. Tell them Santa is watching. Then an hour later fake a phone call from him. Freak your kids out with red and white magic and then watch them grow up to be pretty cool people, undamaged by your strange truth-challenged love.
Trust me, just keep them from the sad lame truth a little bit longer.
Image: Bielanko Family PrivateMore On