However, if he does, he hasn’t let on to any of us.
The other night at the dinner table, I asked him, as I have successfully several times already this season, a casual question about a item on his Christmas list.
“Really Mom?” he grinned winkingly. “Why do want to know? Mmmm? Doesn’t Santa know?”
I was being busted.
I felt my heart sink. “It’s over,” I thought. “My youngest child officially knows.” Sigh…
The door to this childhood chapter is about to slam shut like a door in the opening credits of Get Smart.
“Don’t crack, Alix! Poker face! Poker face!” went my mental mild panic.
He was waiting for an answer, so I nonchalantly offered, “Yes… of course Santa knows, I was just curious.”
Not my best work.
A moment later, Henry’s eyes were downcast. His head in his hands. He’d ceased eating.
When I asked him what was wrong, he quietly said, “Nothing.”
His big grin be done gone.
“Something must be wrong, please tell me.”
He wouldn’t. We go around like this a few more times.
Then, no longer able to fight it, he started to cry.
Henry doesn’t cry often so when he does, it’s a meaningful act. I pay extra attention.
Plus, I want our son to know that he’s safe to express and articulate his feelings.
I went to him and he wrapped his strong, but still little kid arms tightly around my neck.
Turns out he’d asked his twelve year-old sister and she let it slip. I wasn’t upset with her. This is how the Christmas cookie often crumbles.
Besides, she didn’t want to lie to him.
“I wish I didn’t know,” he said, sounding heartbroken.
He didn’t mention presents or how this new intel will impact his gift-getting logistics from now on if Santa is out of the picture.
His tears were grief tears. He was mourning the death of Christmas magic.
I knew immediately I had to find a way to recover this situation for him — and fast. But how? I had nothing. I took a deep breath and hoped that if I started talking, something would come.
“Henry,” I began, “Santa Claus as you understand him may not be real, but the spirit of Christmas is very real.”
He released his arms from my neck and sat back to listen.
“Santa Claus is another name for St. Nicholas. He was a real person who lived over fifteen-hundred years ago and when he died, he became the patron saint of giving and generosity.”
“It is his spirit that inspires millions of people to give to each other on Christmas in honor of the birth of baby Jesus.”
As I spoke to Henry, I suddenly felt the Christmas spirit ignite within more than had in a long time. Years, in fact.
I had never spent a lot of considering St. Nicholas before that moment. Scholar of Saints I am not, but this felt like the right answer for our family.
Relief washed over Henry’s face. He embraced me again, joyfully this time.
“Thank you for restoring my Christmas spirit, Mommy! I feel so much better now.”
Like that, our magic was back.
And all was well once again…
In a new, very merry, Christmas paradigm.
*This was story published with Henry’s permission.