Monday, December 01, 2014

When magic and honesty collide

From Saturday's Briefing:

We have exactly 12 minutes until we need to back out of the driveway. My hair is dry, but my makeup is only partially applied, and I don’t yet have shoes on my feet.

I’m poised to apply lip gloss when our whole world changes, as Katie stomps in with a demand.

“Tell me the truth about Santa.”

Have I mentioned that I haven’t yet had even a sip of coffee?

“What do you mean, ‘Tell me the truth about Santa’?”

(The absence of caffeine does not dull my well-honed parental stalling tactics.)

“I mean, is he real?” asks my determined 9-year-old.

“What do you mean, ‘Is he real’?”

(The clock is ticking. I’m running out of time to get ready and time to delay the inevitable.)

“I mean, does Santa really go to every house on Christmas Eve and deliver presents?”

Tears are pooling in her eyes, and I’m praying to keep my own at bay.

“Well, Santa needs some helpers to get all that work done.”

We stare at each other. I’m afraid to breathe. I’m afraid to give more details. I’m afraid that I’m going to be late to work.

“Do parents give the presents?”

“Do you really want to know?”





“Yes, parents usually give the presents. Not always, but usually.”

We stare at each other a little longer. She doesn’t speak. I break the silence.

“But I believe in the magic of Santa and the spirit of Santa.”

She walks away.

I rush to get on lip gloss and shoes. I brew a cup of coffee, toast some bread, let the dog out and in one more time, load the car with graded papers and lunch.

We don’t speak of Santa again until later in the afternoon.

“Katie, do you want to talk about Santa?”


The silence continues for weeks. I assume she’s in deep denial, and I have no desire to pull my baby out of it.

We’re on the road, driving to visit Grandma and Papa for lunch. She pipes up from the back.

“What about the Elf on the Shelf? Is he real?”

We walk into the house.

“What do you mean, ‘Is he real?’ We see Little Red Charlie at our house every year. Of course he’s real.”

“No. I mean does Little Red Charlie have magic?”

“I have no idea if he has magic.”

“Do you pick him up and move him around the house?”


“You want to know if I pick him up and move him around the house every night?”

“Yes. That’s what I want to know.”



She offers no words, but her eyes reveal disappointment. Perhaps a hint of distrust.

Later that night, I broach the subject again.

“Do you think Little Red Charlie should visit again this year?”

She shrugs.

Cooper can take it no longer.

“Of course he should visit!” my tenderhearted 13-year-old exclaims.

Cooper is well read and blessed with a sharp, logical mind. He’s also visited the same Santa — our Santa — since 2001. He dares not to speak of folks who might help Santa or elves. He loves the magic of Christmas, choosing to bask in the moments rather than analyze their source.

Tell me the truth. Is there a chance that his sister will eventually adopt the same cheerful attitude? That the whole house will once again believe in the magic of Santa? Really. I want to know.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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