There is a 9-year-old scientist in my house who can name for you every element of the periodic table, and can even tell you if you are looking at an outdated version. He likes to know how things work and is willing to take them apart to find out; and he has some big ideas that will rock the pharmaceutical world someday.
But he still believes in Santa Clause. For a couple of years now I’ve suspected that he low-key knows what’s up, and is just going along because he’s the youngest in the house and feels it his bounden duty to keep the magic alive for us all. Either that, or he thinks the quality and quantity of presents under the tree might be diminished by any recognition of the crass truth. For whatever reason, he is keeping the faith.
As if to answer any lingering doubts I may have harbored about the authenticity of his belief, he recently wrote a letter to Santa– and insisted it go to the mailbox with a real stamp.
“I figure I’ll send this early to beat the rush,” he said over breakfast. “I mean, I just picture Santa and all the elves checking the mail on December 1, and getting TOTALLY BURIED in an avalanche of envelopes, like ahhhhhhhhhh! So I’m getting mine in now.”
Boy plans ahead, I’ll give him that. And he’s considerate to boot.
“So… what address should I put on here?”
To which his (older) sister replied: “Oh, you can just put Santa, The North Pole. All the post offices know how to get it there.”
And then he was like “ok, well I need a stamp.”
“Nah, you really don’t,” she replied winking at me. “It’s free postage to the North Pole, everybody knows that!”
His wheels went spinning and, it seems the scientist part of his brain deduced that without empirical evidence of such, he was not going to chance it. I could see it on his face: he was just too concerned that the desires of his heart might end up in a dead letter pile in the middle of the Ohio River somewhere. So, onto the envelope went a REAL stamp. Do you know what a stamps costs these days? 50 cents. Two quarters. That’s like throwing cash money in the garbage, in the run-up to the spendy-est month of the year.
Every year, I enter the season ready to lay down the facade. But as long as one of them will lean into the magic, I’ll play. Commence the sneaking around and covert ops that come with buying, wrapping, and hiding all evidence of the same, for the weeks ahead.
Though it comes with some inconvenience and added expense–and though I remain dubious as to how such a fact-and-evidence-loving kid can *really* believe the myth of flying reindeer and global gifting at the speed of light– I’m here for it. And anyway, he has it figured out. “IF YOU LOOK AT IT SCIENTIFICALLY,” he says, “Santa doesn’t really have to make it to every house in ONE day. Because timezones.” You can’t argue with that action.
Meanwhile, the big sister that cringed at the wasted stamp just turned 11; and I know, deep in her heart of hearts, she remains hopeful that a letter from Hogwarts might yet arrive. Just any day now.
After all, we believe in other midnight miracles, don’t we? Let the kids have their magic. I figure it is good practice for keeping faith in general, when the real-time evidence should make cynics of us all. Our logic-and-reason-loving brains so often rob us of joy, of mystery and magic, and of the hope that makes life worth living. A stamp is a small price to pay for another year of exercising that which we claim to believe– that there is a goodness in the world beyond what we can touch, see, or explain. And that chasing after it–and even trying to bring it about– is a calling worthy of our whole lives.