The Big S.
Whatever you want to call him, Santa is pretty big this time of year. So big, in fact that we pay way too much money to have our pictures taken with him and his reindeer (don't ask - I'm not really into taxidermy). But we play along, go through the motions, oooooh and aaaaah when he comes out from behind that velvety blue curtain like it's the first time we've ever laid eyes on the Big Guy. We think for days, weeks even, ahead of time what we're going to tell him we want for Christmas - all the while looking straight into our parents faces (that would be my face) so that we're sure they hear it too.
Because we believe.
We bake cookies, or sometimes find a bag of stale Oreos in the pantry, and place them on a special plate in front of our gas fireplace - because Santa can totally shimmy down a gas fireplace, can't he? We toss carrots out on the deck for the reindeer - because they get hungry too darn it, and most people forget about them. Besides, Santa really likes his cookies and eats them faster than you can say "Rudolph!" He isn't very good at sharing.
We hang stockings, yes stockings (which are really just big ol socks), on the mantle and hope with all our might that they'll be so full on Christmas morning that they'll have magically found a new home perched up against the couch, brimming with goodies - but not too many goodies, because the dog is prone to finding those goodies after Santa has left and just might have a hunger pain in the middle of the night....
And so the ritual goes.
But tonight, my six year old looks me straight in the eye and says, "Santa isn't real, it's just you and dad buying us presents."
"You know, a lot of 5th graders don't believe in Santa." She informs me.
"You're in kindergarten, how do you know what the 5th graders believe in?"
Dodging my question, she adds, as if it couldn't get any worse, "And his beard? It's fake."
I know that my older kids probably don't really buy the whole fat man in a red suit flying around the entire world in a 12 hour period story, but they go along with it. We watch the Christmas specials, we tell the traditional tales and we talk about stockings of Christmas past. Who knows if any of us really believe what we're saying, but it sure feels good, so we continue - year after year after year.
They've never questioned as bluntly as she did. They've asked gently and then retreated to their own imaginations to ponder the answer, but never just flat out "I don't believe in Santa."
Well, I've got news for you little one.
Mama believes in Santa. And she's no dummy because she knows that if you don't believe, you don't receive.
I don't know about you, but his beard sure looks real to me.