Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Berto and St. Nick

Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me...

I've always cried at the end of "The Polar Express". My family knows it, waits for the right part and then turns to see my wet face. They roll their eyes and sigh, "Oh, Mama..."

I can't help it. I love that line. I love the whole movie. We bought it for our Berto and Ana when they were small. It's in our rotation every Christmas season, and one year Matthew and I painted our living room over a few days while the kids watched it again and again.

But this past Saturday I cried the most I believe I have ever done. I cried in places I never have before.

"Wow, you're bad this year, Mama," my son Berto said, and I mouthed back, "It's because of you."

I feel like some magic has been lost, fairy dust spilt, imagination dulled and jolly old St. Nicholas has lost his red coat and his belly laugh.

This past summer Matthew and I confirmed for Berto that Santa does not exist in the way we had led him to believe so carefully for so long - longer than we could have hoped the magic to last.

Last year things started to slip when Berto wondered why Santa really spoils some kids but not others (not ours), and I wrote about it in Santa and St. Nick. In the comments from that post, lovely people like my big sister Vinca shared how they felt it could be broken gently to kids - or why they felt it should not be broken at all.

I realize there are many ways to tell your kids about Santa Claus when they inquire.

There's the always classic evasion: "Well, what do you believe?" or, "Do you want to believe?"

There's the favorite-holiday-movie reply, like from "The Polar Express",  "Well, Mama still hears the bell. Do you?"

There's the distraction technique, though hard to keep up: "Who wants to make a batch of Rudolph sugar cookies, frosted with triple sprinkles?" (Try not to be too obvious.)

Moralizing is always apt, too, with a well-placed, "Santa is in my heart and yours. He's in all of us. Whenever someone is generous, that's the spirit of Santa Claus. We should all believe in Santa Claus."

Or you can be matter-of-fact and say plainly, "No, there is no Santa. It's been your dad and me all along. Now you get to help, too, and carry on the tradition of St. Nick for your little brother and sisters."

We chose the last option, with a philosophical touch, for our 12-year-old son. He had experienced doubts on and off again for a while, but though I generally like telling the truth, sometimes I really wish we had chosen evasion...forever. I wish we hadn't told. We could have been vague, non-committal. We could have honestly said that we still believe. We could have persisted in marking gifts from Santa just as Matthew's parents did until their sons were grown men.

Now every time our younger children mention Santa Claus, Berto smirks, cynically, and turns away. At the mall one night last week, I tried to tell him that I'm a Santa, but I still believe.

He replied, "That doesn't make sense."

I didn't lie. Every time I watch Kris Kringle sing to the little Dutch girl in "Miracle on 34th Street", see the present Santa dropped at Billy's house in "The Polar Express" or watch a tipsy disenfranchised Santa hand out presents in his struggling neighborhood in that "Night of the Meek" episode from the Twilight Zone, I believe. Every Christmas Eve night as I stay up far too late, I believe. Every time I think back to my childhood and that local fireman who brought my family several boxes on a Christmas Eve in a particularly hard year, I really believe.

Ah, well, some may say, he's twelve, after all...

But I want him to rediscover a little of the magic, such as was found in these excerpts from his note to Santa last year:

Dear Santa,

First of all, please do what you can, and I think I've been good enough for what I am going to ask for. For Christmas this year, I really want a Kindle Fire. I would've asked for an I Pad, but I like the idea of a Kindle Fire better. I think I am old enough and responsible enough for it. I would still value family time and the outdoors, & playing.

If I used the apps or watched something on Kindle Fire after school I would use it during t.v. time, unless I was reading a book on it. Also, to get apps & books& movies on it, I would have to do extra chores. This would get me working more, and I think would especially help Mama. I will try (& I hope would be able to keep it up) not to pester Mama about getting on the Kindle Fire. I will try to make her a little more likeable with electronics.

...Also, I can think of a time I would get a lot of use out of it. In 2014, in July, we are going to Hawaii. It is a 10 hour trip from here to there. (I think the airline might have free wifi, Hopefully.)

...If I don't get a Kindle Fire, then it is up to you what I get for Christmas. You know best. My parents haven't noted that they want anything yet. I will keep you updated. Lastly, thank you for everything you do for the children of the world. You make Christmas more joyous for them. God & Jesus bless you, and Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoy it. Thank you again,
(P.S. We'll be in New Mexico.)

He got the Kindle Fire.


  1. I absolutely love Berto's letter to Santa. And Mama still cries over the Polar Express - I guess she still hears the bell ringing, too.

    1. Yes, I will cherish that letter. I will always hear bells. I have a very active imagination. ;)

  2. What a touching letter from Berto, he's such a great kid! I'm so sorry too. I will be balling when that day comes for us. I never asked my mom because I wanted to believe ;) My brother did though and my parents didn't tell him and he has been pissed at them for years for not telling him the truth. Everyone is different I guess. As for me, I do believe in the spirit of St. Nicholas for sure. ~Holly

    1. Everyone is different. As for the spirit of St Nicholas, there are people who do magical things for others every year around this time. Yes, I believe too, Holly. Me too.


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