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,