Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa your Self

Every December, as I stand and watch, jumping around, possibly clapping, Joe brings down the red and white Christmas box from the rafters in the garage.   Without a child in the house and now that I've decided for all time that I can't kill a tree for the holiday, the Christmas display is decidedly smaller, more compact, distilled to its very essence. Gone are the days of a 6-foot tree, draped in ornaments and lights.  The "tree" we have now is intended as a centerpiece, but its size is ideal for our circumstances.

And really, since the Christmas display is just my seasonal altar to Santa, the little LED lights in place of flickering votives, the tree doesn't need to take center stage.  Now the little centerpiece tree serves as a twinkling backdrop to what's really important to me: the little statue of St. Nick.

Every December, I pay tribute to the enduring sweetness that is Santa in my life.  Every year I trace how Santa has made me who I am, how he brings me back to what's essential, how he serves as a constant reason to be good and to keep track of being good.  There is no amount of cynicism, no Bad Santa, no snark that can tarnish my adoration of Santa. 

Santa is my only god.

No other god can hold a candle to Santa in my book.  He's the real deal.  I worship him with my whole heart, in a way I could never give it up for Jesus or even Shiva who is seriously kick-ass when it comes to mythical beings.  Nope, for me it's Team Santa until death do us part.  And it's not even about the presents.

It's so much more than that.  Santa is not just Father Christmas, but the Father of Lists.  From him did my life-long habit of writing things down, and checking them twice, derive.  As did my habit of using December to look back on the year and think about how I was good (and how I was not), and begin making plans for the coming year.  Santa sits at the head of this whole process for me, a benevolent goodness that cheers my own. My Santa is not a lump of coal Santa.  That's so Grinch.

There is also something for me about this annual conspiracy of goodness, of willful wishful belief in the big man in the red suit, that calls out the best in all of us, that makes us all wide-eyed hopeful children again.  All in the interest of dazzling some wide-eyed hopeful children.  Something about that makes me so glad every year, the way in which adults are willing to create magic for children, even just for a few years, to induct them into this beautiful vision so that they can, when it's their turn, create it for others.  I wish everyone to have this, regardless of religion.  Santa is such a rewarding myth for all people, all the time.

These days, since I don't have a child around anymore, I Santa my self.  I go shopping at the mall and get happy seeing the supremely well-appointed Santa outside the Macy's.  I make my lists and wrap presents, hiding them from puppy teeth.  I watch "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Elf "and make cookies.  Without a kid around, I write a letter to Santa in my head, knowing I'm writing just to me, and think about all the ways I was very, very good this year.  On Christmas morning, I wake up, before dawn, filled with excitement, remembering sitting at the top of the stairs with my sisters in our robes and slippers, waiting for our parents to be done with their interminable ablutions so that we could run downstairs, throw open the doors to the living room and see traces of the big guy's magic. Remembering The Kid's happy face, taking down the stocking, unwrapping the Santa surprises.

I don't need any other god but Santa, Santa of the reindeer and cookies and good cheer, wanting to know what we want, how we've been good.

Santa's coming. Jump around!

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