At least that’s what I adamantly told my peers who insisted otherwise. We were approaching that age … the age where childhood begins to fade away, giving birth to the painful, practical reality of adulthood. Still, as I tore open the envelope that had arrived in our mailbox, directly—it seemed—from the North Pole, I was hell-bent on upholding my faith in the world’s oldest and most generous elf.
It was only days earlier that I had stood facing him. Of course, it is a known fact among children of a certain age that malls across the globe are littered with imposters—those posing, perhaps with good intentions, as Mr. Claus in an effort to bring about the holiday spirit and encourage the insistent spending in neighbouring stores.
Even the most dull-minded child of nine knew that. Yet, still, I was sure of the man who sat in front of me. His snow-white beard, that twinkle in his eye, those rosy cheeks—all of it matched the description outlined by Clement Clarke Moore in A Visit from Saint Nicholas.
My three siblings and I approached him as he sat on a leather-bound sofa in front of a gas-burning fireplace. A stuffed dog lay at his feet. We clamoured around him, with the shortest of our quartet—my sisters—sitting on his lap. He was kind and soft-spoken; there was a peaceful presence that transcended words. This was him. I was sure of it.
I want magic
After the initial small talk and a photo taken by an abnormally tall elf—a mall employee, if there was ever any doubt, Santa turned to us. My siblings dictated their lists with expert memorization, pulled straight from that year’s Sears catalogue Wish Book. And then it was my turn. I asked the same simple request I had asked for each year prior:
“I want magic.”
My belief in Claus was reinforced by the plethora of evidence I had gathered in the years leading up to what would, in retrospect, be a crucial year of growth and faith for me. While kids at school spoke of troubling discoveries of presents in the parental closets, I grew in my certainty that the magic was real. The trails left behind by a midnight, magical visit were too authentic to dispute.
On one particularly momentous occasion, we had even captured a few seconds of footage of the man himself, shutting the door to our home. According to my parents, at the time, this incredible piece of footage had been an accident—a camera left on overnight.
It was clear to me, with the evidence left behind through carrot-ends in the yard, footprints in the snow and inexpiable moments of paranormal suggestion, there was never any reason to doubt. And in not doubting, I believed that Santa Claus, the man, the elf, could bring me anything I asked for. Anything at all.
Indeed, if he did exist, his workshop did as well—as did his team of elves. Anything I dreamed of could, therefore, be designed and tailor-made upon my simple request through a letter or, if speaking to the right ‘Santa,’ a visit to the mall.
And what I wanted was magic.
Many uses for magic
I was picked on at school—a regular barrage of teasing and taunting greeted me each day during my elementary years. Nothing about it was particularly traumatizing, but it was constant. My only escape was the fantasies I dreamed of in my head.
I imagined returning to school after the Christmas holidays with the ability to fly—a feat I would flaunt to my bullies in a demonstration of my newly-gifted abilities. My tormentors would look upon me with awe and regret for ever having mocked me.
In less vengeful terms, I fantasized about bringing joy and happiness to those I loved, much in the way Santa Claus himself did. I regaled my siblings with tales of a Cloud City occupied by giants who made the thunder and produced the rain. I told them I would take them there on Christmas Day. With magic, I could do anything.
Year after year, I would ask for this gift, pleading with Mr. Claus in whatever way I could that I would make good use of his powers. Heck, with magical powers in my possession, if he ever felt like retiring, I’m sure we could negotiate a possible trade-off in the future.
Of course, many Christmas mornings came and went. I would awaken, and before pulling the covers back, I’d stare at a slipper in the corner of the room, trying desperately to move it with my mind. No luck. Instead, I’d open the gifts that had been left for us under the tree, certainly grateful, but quietly disappointed that my real wish—the only one I had ever wanted—was never granted.
A letter from Santa Claus
I tore open the envelope that had been addressed to me. My siblings and I had received four identical envelopes in the mail and, given that we had sent our letters off to Santa Claus only two weeks prior, it was reasonable to assume that these were from him.
Indeed, we unfolded four identical form letters. It was common, though often ignored by avid believers, to receive the same typed form letter each year from the post office. It was never personal, though it did feature our names inserted at the top.
I grumbled as my eyes scanned the page. I had written an impassioned plea in a desperate request for magic—a letter so eloquent it rivalled Ralphie’s appeal for a BB gun in A Christmas Story. All I got back was a standard form letter.
I tossed the letter down and it flipped, acrobatically, before landing on the coffee table. My eyes caught a glimmer of shimmering, blue ink as it fell through the air like a feather. I stopped in my tracks and reached for the page, lightly holding it between my fingers. The back was filled—top to bottom—with a hand-written message. Santa’s writing!
My eyes scanned the message and I sat down as I read:
Thank you for your years of writing. Nicholas, magic is a complicated and mysterious force; not one that can be simply left under a tree, I’m afraid. It is not a force that can be traded or given either. You will soon discover that magic, my friend, exists within you already, in so many different ways. As you grow older you will come to know of your incredible powers through love, friendship and imagination. There will be times in your life when you can’t believe the miracles that surround you. I promise. Trust me when I say the world is filled with magic that you are soon to discover. Keep believing. Keep having faith. And that magic will continue to thrive within and around you, from now on and for years to come.
I set the letter down. In a single moment of sheer belief and confusion, I was floored to have received an authentic, hand-written letter from Claus himself, and was moved by the generosity of a postal worker who took the time to write their poetic musings to a young boy.
Life is beautiful
The discovery of our world; the moment the veil is pulled back, revealing the gears behind the magical realm our childhood thrived in, can be a painful and disappointing one. But the world is not so black and white.
This holiday season, take a moment to view the supernal beauty that greets you every single day. Look past the crowded malls, the unruly customers, the bad drivers, the weather, the politics.
Just as Francis Church famously wrote to Virginia O’Hanlon when she posed her cut-and-dry question of Claus’ existence, “Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world. … Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.”
This holiday season, take a moment to view the supernal beauty that greets you every single day. Look past the crowded malls, the unruly customers, the bad drivers, the weather, the politics. It may not be the magical powers I had in mind as a young nine-year-old, but it is quite something.
I think Santa’s response could probably have been summed up in three simple words: Life is beautiful.
Of course, I needed that to be broken down and explained to me as a kid, but that’s really what Santa—over 100 years of tradition, the spirit of giving, that one-night trip around the world—is all about.
Life is beautiful. Giving and sharing is beautiful. Kindness is beautiful.
And all of it is pure magic.
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