Last night my friend Jen said that her daughter had been asking some penetrating questions about Santa and how he operates. I said that I would be happy to act as a resource on this issue, and that she could send Grace to me with any questions.
Jen shot me an insultingly suspicious look and said, "What are you going to tell her? Are you going to tell her Santa is real, or that Santa isn't real?"
"What do you mean?" I asked. "Of course Santa is real. Santa is totally real. What else would I tell her?"
I'm serious about this. Santa Claus lives, and because Santa is magic, any stories we tell about his nature and how he operates in the world must be crude approximations of the truth. That stuff about reindeer and elves got invented by creative types in the 19th century; it is no more or less valid than stories about Father Christmas or St. Nicholas or the Russian Babushka. They are ways for us to explain to ourselves the miracles that happen at the end of every year, as the seasons turn and the world renews itself again. It's why Christians celebrate the birth of our savior at this time of year, although scholars say the historical Jesus was probably born earlier in the fall.
Every year I ask Santa for something -- one thing -- that is important to me, and I have never been disappointed. Sometimes it takes a few years; sometimes I get my wish answered in a way that shows me I asked for something silly, or something I really shouldn't have been wanting. (There was that year I asked for a husband, and got someone else's ... less said about that, the better.) Santa often delivers in unexpected ways, as in the year I asked for a trip to Disney World and got an invitation to a conference there two weeks later.
So I don't know what I'm asking for this year. It's been such an extraordinary year, and I feel so lucky at the moment, that asking for anything more feels impertinent, ungrateful, and like pushing my luck.
I'd like to go to Harrogate next year. If Santa could arrange that, I'd be very grateful.
What are you asking Santa for this year?
Five Random Songs
"Why Wasn't I More Grateful (When Life Was Sweet)," Maria McKee. Yikes -- I'm grateful, I'm grateful!
"The Arcane Model," The Delgados. From The Complete BBC Peel Sessions, a Christmas gift from years past (though not from Santa).
"Can't Get You Out of My Head," Electric Light Orchestra. I will never apologize for liking ELO.
"I've Just Seen a Face," The Beatles. Another song that makes me happy, no matter what else is going on. I used to be able to play it on the guitar. I wish I still had a guitar. Maybe I'll ask Santa.
"Take a Look," Aretha Franklin. Ack, and this song kills me. "Take a look in the mirror/Look at yourself/But don't you look too close/'Cause you might see the person/That you hate the most..."