CHASING DOWN THE MUSE
“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the Unicorn, “if
you believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”
-- LEWIS CARROLL, ALICE’S
THE LOOKING GLASS
“There isn’t any Santa Claus,” and 8-year-old child tells her
I just can’t let the words pass without comment.
“Are you sure?” I ask.
“I know his wife,” is the precocious answer, as if this explains
it all. We banter back and forth for a while. There will be no
changing of minds here.
“Expect a miracle.” These words come to mind. Is this what a
belief in Santa Claus is about? Is it because of my expectations that
I am drawn into the conversation with these children?
I do expect miracles. I encounter them often and expect them daily
-- from the sighting of great blue herons building a nest in a
eucalyptus tree to a newborn baby’s perfection ... to Santa Claus.
Sometimes, the belief is outside logic or reason. Still, I believe.
The Christmas I was 7 ... I don’t know that I was exactly
expecting a miracle or much of anything else. I was sick that year,
had a fever, and on this Christmas Eve I was worried that my father
wasn’t going to be home in time for Christmas. He was driving home to
California from Detroit, where he had been playing what passed for
professional basketball in those days.
I had overheard my mother and grandmother earlier: “Roads bad ...
Snow ... pull over somewhere” -- snippets of conversation that fueled
my fevered worry. Trying not to think of it, to help prepare as much
as I could, I got down a plate for the cookies we had baked for
“Mom, is there going to be enough milk?” I asked.
“Sure, Honey. But wait until right before bed, OK?” she said.
I glanced at the tree in the corner by the window. Taller than me
on its sheet-covered box ... silver strands of tinsel catching
colored lights -- a fuzzy mix of twinkling red, blue, yellow and
green. No presents under the tree. Tradition had Santa bringing our
gifts, and the colorful wrapping was part of the joy of a Christmas
At last, my younger brother and sister and I climbed into the big
bed together, pushing for position, laughing and exuberant.
“Shush now,” my mother said. “Santa won’t come if you aren’t good
and go to sleep now.”
In an instant, we straightened out our bodies in a row and were
quiet. And “before you can say, ‘Jack Robinson,’” we were all fast
I awakened to see the fat, white-bearded man in the red suit,
empty plate and glass in hand, heading toward the kitchen. Though I
hadn’t moved, he looked over at me and smiled. I stayed very still,
just staring. His index finger went to his lips in a gesture for
silence as, empty-handed, he passed by again.
I wanted to leap out of bed, to see what he had left, where he had
gone. I knew that I should not, and some part of me couldn’t seem to
move, anyway. Remaining where I was, I soon fell back to sleep,
possibilities running through my mind like counting sheep.
In the morning, all I could talk about was how I had seen Santa
Claus. I was so excited. And when, at noon, my father drove in at
last, my day was complete. This was the best Christmas ever!
For years afterward, I basked in the glow of having seen Santa
Claus and I believed with all my being. Long after my peers outgrew
their belief in him, and even after having been “shamed” into silence
on the matter by children and adults alike, I continued in my belief.
This belief had nothing to do with logic and reason -- I ignored
them, in fact. Of course, I knew at some level of rational thought
that what I had seen couldn’t be, but, still, I believed.
I had even tried reasonable explanations (for I knew I had seen
him) -- the fever caused a hallucination, my father came home early
and dressed up, maybe my grandfather or one of his friends ... . None
of this worked. My belief in what I had “seen” persisted. In some
way, it still does to this day. Perhaps this is why I was drawn into
the Santa Claus conversation.
I consider myself fortunate for this belief in Santa Claus. This
is the part of me that is optimistic and joyful, the part that
expects miracles ... and gets them. There is no squelching this for
long. And, while a belief in Santa Claus is not really so important
in the big picture, I find myself concerned that these children
already do not believe. Do they expect miracles? I hope so.
* CHERRIL DOTY is a creative living coach, writer, artist and
walker who lives and works in Laguna Beach. Contact her by e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (949) 251-3883. Your thoughts and
questions are appreciated.