Musings & Threads. Christmas Magic.
When I was a child, the excitement I felt was palpable as we drove to my Grandma’s house in Brooklyn on Christmas Eve where the entire family would gather for the “Feast of the Seven Fishes.” We would soon be singing Christmas Carols in between all the food and fun that would occur throughout the night. At some point after the meal, we would begin singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to signal that Santa was on his way to hand out the piles of presents that had accumulated in various corners of each room. As a child, the sight of those gifts was almost too much to bear. One year, I noticed that my Uncle Buddy was missing while Santa visited and I had to tell him so. I remember his surprised expression as he said “Oh no! I missed Santa again! I went upstairs and must have fallen asleep!” and the delight in his eyes when I told him that it was so much fun.
I always looked forward to Christmas Eve as a child and of course, I was always especially excited about seeing Santa Claus. That exhilaration came to a screeching halt one year when I was around 7 years old and a classmate announced that there was no Santa Claus. We all gathered around him as he related the information provided to him by an older sibling, convincing us all of the truth of his news. I went home and cried to my mother about it. She tried her best to assure me that Santa is real and that the boy at school was lying without much success, but the look on her face seemed to be mourning the loss of Santa Claus too.
It felt different driving to Brooklyn that year and the excitement of past years didn’t well up inside me. As the youngest of my cousins, the word must have spread quickly that I was told there was no Santa and that’s why I was not excited on that Christmas Eve. My older girl cousins came to me with sadness on their faces and tried to convince me that Santa was real, despite what the boy in school told me. They took me by the hand and led me outside to 95th street. I remember vividly feeling cold in the winter air, but feeling a twinge of happiness seeing all the houses decorated with Christmas lights. “Look up in the sky, Donna! Let’s see if we can find Santa’s sleigh flying!” another cousin chimed in “He must be close! It’s almost time for him to arrive!” At that moment, I saw what looked like a string of lights gliding through the sky in the distance! I squealed with delight that I saw Santa’s sleigh in the night sky and I thought I even saw Rudolph at the beginning of the line! My cousins all hugged me and each other laughing and smiling at the magical event that just occurred. I was able to feel the magic of Christmas again with the help of my wonderful family.
Many years later when the Christmas Eves in Brooklyn were long gone, my niece Melissa was around the same age as I was when she had been told the same disappointing news. I felt incredible sadness that a classmate of hers prematurely robbed her of the excitement of Christmas. Remembering the look on my mother’s face all those years ago when I told her the same news, I completely understood it now as my own feelings and memories came flooding back in waves. The biggest part of those memories was that single act of love that my cousins showed me. I took Melissa’s small hand in my own. We walked to the front of her house and we searched together for Santa’s lighted sleigh in the night sky. It wasn’t long before we excitedly spotted it and the magic of Christmas was returned to a child once more. There really is a Santa Claus!