I believed in Santa Claus until I was thirteen. This was a collaborative effort in part of what seems to be my female version of the Peter Pan syndrome, our family's yearly Strong Family Christmas Party and my Mother's dedication to preserving magic in the purest form, love.
I knew that the Santas at the Mall weren't real. They were his helpers, duh. I asked all the usual questions kids ask about the improbabilities, the incongruities and down right impossibilities. But the truth is, even as I grew older, and my friends told me there for sure was no Jolly Fat Man that circumnavigated the entire world in one night and gave presents to EVERY CHILD (we won't get into the chimney discussion see The Muppets Christmas Special for that) I knew he was real because every year I met him. The real him.
At our yearly Strong Family Christmas Party (or The Santa Party) the four Strong daughters Shirley, Joanne, Carole and Claudia, and all of their children, and their children's children, and so on, gather for a Christmas program, treats and the penultimate meeting of the Santa. I mean THE SANTA. He has a Good Book that knows things only a Santa can know. How you talk back, or how you are doing so much better in Social Studies this year (remember Social Studies?) He knows that you missed a lot of school because you were so sick and he wants you to listen to Mom and Dad and take care of yourself, he knows you have a brother and step-sister and you love them even if you fight with them. He knows about you and he is kind and you can see your name in his Giant Red Book as you sit on his knee. You watch it happen for all of the other kids at the party and he sings and dances and tells jokes too. He is a giant red wondrous ball of joy and he's real and he's right in front of you.
So what if one Christmas Eve I hear my parents giggling in the hallway TRYING to be quiet (but making it so much worse) as they attempt to put together a huge cardboard playhouse for Todd before my brother and I wake up at the crack of dawn and it was supposed to be from Santa? I still believed in Santa. So what if THE ONLY TIME Todd and I snuck and looked for our Christmas presents, it was the one thing I wanted the most in the whole wide world, a Cabbage Patch Doll, and it came from Santa on Christmas morning all displayed in my baby rocking chair and baby blanket? I still believed.
I finally found out, officially, when I was looking up a phone number in my Mom's little blue phone book. My mother has the most beautiful penmanship so the entire phone book was filled with her hand. I don't even remember what number I needed but as I was scrolling through then all of a sudden there it was, SANTA printed out with an 801 area code. My mother never uses print, and Santa's cards always had a different writing on them. I didn't feel duped, or stupid. I didn't feel lied to. I felt loved and protected. I felt adored. I still do.
I still believe in Santa. My Santa is the magic warm glow that fills me up when I am with my Family, Friends and Furry Fuzzies. I can't wait for Santa to visit this year.