"Mom, do you believe in Santa?"
I knew this was coming. I mean, Julie is 11, and had never once doubted the existence of the man in the red suit. It was just after Thanksgiving and it was the first time she had ever asked me this question.
Even though I knew the topic might come up this year, I still wasn't ready at that particular moment. I was in the middle of changing Josie's diaper, and hadn't really thought through what to say.
So, I simply replied, "Well..do you?"
The answer I got in return was not quite what I expected, "Of course I do! And this is going to be the best Christmas ever because I'm going to ask Santa for magic dust to make all my books come to life!"
I smiled, a little shocked, and just thought to myself, well I guess we have one more year.
Little did I know, a couple weeks later her world would come crashing down.
Before you label me as a psycho, dramatic mom, let me paint a picture of my 11- year-old daughter Julie. She has always had her heads in the clouds---always thinking and dreaming and believing in fantasy and the impossible. Every year for Christmas she has asked for something way beyond reach---something so out there that we always have to scramble to make it halfway come true. When she was 9, she requested a time machine to transport her back to the days of Jesus. Instead, I had a book specially written, telling a story of how Julie traveled back in time to see Baby Jesus. Of course, Santa wrote a note apologizing that he could not give her a time machine.
So, you get the idea. She has loved everything magical and imaginary, and of course we played into that. Because, well, because it was just so fun. Seeing her believe in all our little imaginary creatures made us so happy. There was Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Elf, the leprechaun, and her favorite---the Christmas Angel---which was an old Angel doll belonging to me, who we made come to life when Julie was 3. Around Christmas, the Angel left encouraging and heartfelt notes in her pocket to Julie, and eventually Johnny and Josie. (Truthfully these were my love letters to them, but that's for another blog.)
Anyway, our house is consumed by fantasy and we all love it.
Christmas morning it all came to a halt.
Julie and Johnny woke up early as usual on Christmas morning---all happy and excited and anxious to get downstairs. They checked to see if Santa ate the cookies and drank the milk. They cheerfully opened the presents in their stockings.
They rushed downstairs to see the mountain of presents under the tree.
Then, Julie went racing upstairs, into her bedroom and locked the door behind her.
Baffled, Scott and I went upstairs, and pleaded with her to open the door, as we listened to her crying loudly. Finally, she opened the door, where she lay head buried in her pillows, weeping uncontrollably. Scott and I looked at each other and we knew.
After much coaxing, Julie wailed "OK!! I know Santa's not real!!" Two weeks before Christmas, she was sitting at a table in art class with a group of kids as they one by one explained how they found out Santa wasn't real. Julie, who still believed in Santa until that moment, said she sat there feeling silly, and then she knew.
"Why did you lie to me?" she choked out, her eyes streaming with tears.
Ugh. Punch to the stomach.
Hugging and petting her hair, we explained the story of Santa as best we could, and told her it was all about love and kindness and we did all those things because we love them so much. (I'd read so many blogs about how to tell your kids about Santa, and I could only recall about half.)
She calmed down a bit, and sniffled "I'm so sorry I don't believe any more. I loved all of it. Everything about it."
Then, I lost it.
I pictured all the Christmases past, and all I could think was how fast it all went, and how I really loved everything about it too. There's nothing like seeing Christmas through the eyes of your little kids, and when they stop believing, it truly breaks your heart too.
It's over and Christmas will forever be different. Of course, Julie has promised to help us keep the secret for Johnny and Josie, and we still have many years to come. Now it's just a little different.
But, I'll forever cherish those early years when everything was magical. For all of us.