Staff writer Megan O'Matz reports:
My nephew, age 9, left me a message one night, saying he needed to talk to me about something important. I figured he wanted me to buy stuff, like wrapping paper, from him for a school fundraiser. The next morning I called him.
“Hi, kiddo! What’s up?”
“I know there’s no Santa,” he said.
“I know Santa’s not real.”
I’m thinking: #$*(S!
“Of course he is!” I insisted.
“Aunt Megan, I know. Seriously. I know.”
He sounded so glum. Like an old man, resigned to living with arteriosclerosis.
“Who have you talked to about this?” I asked, fearing I was being punked.
“Mom, Dad and Grandma.”
“Ah, ok, well, you know. Santa is the spir…
“I know, he’s the spirit of Christmas.”
Clearly, someone had already tried this line.
“Um, yes he’s the spirit of Christmas!”
“No, really, I know he’s not real.”
Quick, think: how does that beautiful New York Sun poem go? Yes Virginia there is a Santa. Think, um… forever make glad the hearts of children..think! No Santa!...he exists as surely as joy and romance and…fairies on the lawn….and, oh crap. I’m a lousy aunt. Why aren’t I better prepared?
“Ok, well, are you sad?”
“Yeah, a little.”
“Well, you know, Santa is the symbol of Christmas, of love and giving…Think of all that your parents do to make you happy.”
“I guess,” he said, dejectedly.
He had worries. His little sister, he said, still believes.
“She thinks you can draw a Barbie doll and Santa will make it. What if she draws a Barbie that doesn’t exist? Then there will be trouble.”
Well, unless she draws a two-headed Barbie I’m betting that Mattel will have something pretty close, I reasoned.
Childhood: the innocence, the magic is so fleeting. Now this sweet boy is on par with me: a co-conspirator.
“Hey, at Thanksgiving, at least you know that the turkey is real!” I teased.
“Yeah, but it’s dead.”
“Are you still going to sit on Santa’s lap?” I asked, picturing his brother and sister at the mall, happily perched on Santa’s wobbly knee, while he sulked nearby, silent in his truthy misery.
“Yeah, sure,” he said. “But I’m not sure I want to. That will make me sad.”
Others in the family, he informed me, were taking this hard, too.
Grandma, he said, had talked to his Dad and “she sounded mad.”
I bet! I thought, like I said ..the spirit of Christmas, Grandma is going to kill someone…
Before hanging up, however, I detected a glimmer of his old childlike self, wiser but still merry.
“On the bright side,” he said, “I can eat the cookies we leave out for Santa!”
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