Tuesday, December 23, 2014


It was the Christmas of '92.  The Christmas my sassy five-year-old son, Riley's, belief in Santa up and went. 

"Only three weeks left, Ri. How's your letter to Santa to coming along?" I said as I set his scrambled cheese eggs and toast down next to his hot cocoa. 

"I'm not making a list this year," he announced. "I don't believe in Santa anymore."

"Really?" I was, of course, heartbroken, and ticked at the third grader who lived behind us who I was certain had blown Santa's cover, but also semi-impressed by my son's bold stance. "Uhhh...you sure you want to take that chance, Ri? I mean...what if you're wrong?"

He stuffed a piece of cinnamon toast in his smirky little mouth and said, "I know you and Dad get the presents. Get over it."

"But what about—" I started to protest, when a glimmer of an idea took hold. "Just to be on the safe side, if it was me, I'd pull together a letter with a list anyway, honey. You know, cover your bases. Couldn't hurt, right?"

He rested his case with an eye roll and a disbelieving grunt. But a couple of days later, I found this huffy, smudged note on the kitchen table. Unable to write yet, Riley had asked his eight-year-old sister, Casey, to do a little secretarial work:

Der Santa,

Your not real but this is what I want

1. Mario game
2. WWF reslers like Rock
3. Sled


After I tucked him that night, I told him that he could rest easy because I'd sent the letter off to the North Pole that afternoon. He gave me a look that can only be described as a poor-Mom-how-did-she-live-this-long-without-getting-hit-by-a-bus look.

I played it pretty low key for the next two weeks, didn't breathe a word about Santa until the family was traveling to the American Club to celebrate the holiday. Besides sleigh rides, wreath-making classes, caroling and other assorted seasonal attractions the hotel offered guests back then, there was an up close and extended personal visit with Santa on the venue!  

I mentioned nonchalantly on the ride up about how excited Mr. Claus would be to see Riley. "I bet you're pretty relieved you pulled that letter together now, right? That'd be pretty embarrassing to be sitting on Santa's lap and--

"Bah, humbug," was my whipper-snapper's back seat response. 

While my husband checked us in, I mumbled something about looking around and dashed off to find a hotel employee who could direct me to Santa's Workshop. After a quick chat with the jolly one, I rushed back to reception and arrived just in time to hear Riley tell his father, yet again, "But I don't want to go see Santa. That's for babies."

It was only after much cajoling, bribery, and minor threatening, that later that afternoon our son dawdled through the hotel's hallways, stood grouchily in line with the other, much happier, children. When it was my boy's turn, Santa gave me a wink, and said to my little non-believer, "And who do we have here! Why it's Riley, if I'm not mistaken, and I never am," as he reached into his big ole red furry pants with a hearty ho...ho...ho and withdrew my son's Der Santa letter that I'd slipped him earlier. 

The jaw-dropping look on my little wise guy’s face? 
Worth its weight in gold, incense, and mirth.

Merry Christmas to all. May your belief in someone or something greater than yourself never waver.

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