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Santa Claus sighted -- this is not a hoax

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

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ADVENTURES THROUGH

THE LOOKING GLASS

“There isn’t any Santa Claus,” and 8-year-old child tells her

friend.

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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?

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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

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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

Santa.

“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

morning.

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

asleep.

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

emmagine8@aol.com or by phone at (949) 251-3883. Your thoughts and

questions are appreciated.


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