Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Santa Claus Will Always Be Real: Sunday musings…12/18/22

1 Soccer. It’s what’s for breakfast.

2 Messi. I admit that I am lightly cheering for Messi to win his first World Cup title. I also admit that I rather like the “new” Messi. Gritty. Confrontational. Edgy.

3 Cookies. Yesterday was Christmas cookie day at the White house. Beth and I come from two vastly different families in some ways, but in one very special, important way the White and the Hurst families have always been the same: we have Holiday traditions that include an activity around which we all gather. Beginning with Beth’s Grammy, passed on through my mother-in-law Sandy, and now practiced in the homes of all three Hurst girls.

The house was warm. Casa Blanco is tiny. Much smaller than even the once-upon-a-time one-room schoolhouse that became the Hurst family home. Kids and adults were crammed into the kitchen as the little ones sat elbo-to-elbow decorating the sandtarts. We managed to hold off on the first glass of wine until dinner time. All of us except Beth, that is: her Grammy always capped off a successful cookie baking day with a glass of red wine, and so, too, did our own Grammy, Beth.

I watch what I eat 50 weeks out of each year so that I can eat pie at Thanksgiving, and cookies at Christmas.

4 Rhode Island. “Rhode Island underpromises and overdelivers.” John “Buda” Dell’Arerio.

Beth and I will travel to Little Rhody, the state of my youth, to spend the Christmas weekend with my Mom. There are 4 of us in my generation. Each year one of us (and our sainted, in this case, spouse) has hosted Mom, and when he was alive Dad, for Christmas. Have I ever told you how this came about? Forgive me if this is a repeat.

Many years ago, after all four of the White kids had fledged the nest, we all casually asked my folks what their plans were for the Christmas Holiday. Each of us, in our own way, said something along the lines of “we’d love to have you come visit us.” Not hearing back from our parents accepting what we all thought was a heartfelt invitation we each just assumed that Mom and Dad had accepted the invite from one of the siblings and went about planning the Holiday with only our own nuclear families in mind.

A week or so before Christmas my younger sister Kerstin, so much younger than we older three that she had been a quasi only child, just as casually asked my Mom what she and Dad were doing for Christmas. Mind you, Kerstin was expecting to hear that they were going to a sibling’s house, but what she got was equal parts hilarious and shocking:

“Your Father always wanted to see the Rockettes’ Christmas show so we are going to spend Christmas in New York.”

Now this was outrageously out of character for my parents, and Kerstin wasn’t quite sure where Mom was going with this: “Oh…that sounds nice! How are you getting there?”

SNAP! Mom closes the trap: “Oh, we’re taking a bus, along with all of the other parents who weren’t invited to spend Christmas with any of their children.”

Ooo, ouch. Kerstin doesn’t quite recover quickly enough and continues with polite conversation: “What are you doing for dinner?”

Mom moves in for the killshot: “Typical Christmas stuff. There’s a very nice brown bag turkey sandwich dinner that we will have on the bus. With all of the other parents who didn’t get invited to Christmas dinner by one of their children.”

By this time Kerstin is equal parts incredulous, offended, and just plain pissed off. “That’s total BS! You were invited by every single one of us. That’s it. From now on you will be assigned a child to visit each year. I will PERSONALLY tell you at Thanksgiving where you are going on Christmas.” And thus began the “Christmas Rotation” for Anne Lee and Dick.

Mom is no longer much of a traveler, and thus Beth and I will find ourselves on the road for this year’s Holiday. Having lost 3 of our 4 parents I, we, are both so very pleased to still have this chance to spend Christmas with Mom. Who knows if we will get another…

5 Santa. Once again I re-post this gem from years ago with a tiny bit of editing to keep it current.

“Santa is the Spirit of Giving. He is always real.” –Beth White

Once again my darling wife Beth knocks it out of the park. We have a couple of little ones again in the White house, and because of that we will have a healthy dose of Santa in our lives. While I realize that Beth and I will not really have a say in whether or not the whole Santa Claus story plays out in our grandchildren’s houses, what he stands for is important. Important enough for us to have had him in all his splendor and glory when Dan, Megan, and Randy were growing up. Important for us to draw out the time before Randy came to the realization that Santa was not a real person for as long as possible, so deep was his love for the furry fat guy he called “Key Klaus”.

Rest assured, the parental units in Clan White did struggle with how to handle the inherent subterfuge that is necessary to have the Santa Claus story as part of our childrens’ upbringing. From the very beginning, though, the message was about the giving, about generosity and caring enough about someone else that you not only gave them a gift, but you gave them a gift that let them know how much you cared about them. You know, the “spirit” in the Spirit of Giving, if you will.

No matter how you massage it, that day of reckoning when your child finally realizes that the character Santa Claus is nothing more than the figurative representation of the giving concept can be fraught with all kinds of emotional trauma. For sure you might get a dose of “you lied to me”, but in my now decades of experience being around parents it’s actually rather rare for this one to pop up. What you generally face is sadness, with maybe a touch of disappointment and even mourning tossed in just to add a little sting to the moment. Like so much else about parenting, or even just about kindness, these are times when you get to talk about and teach really important lessons. Here the lesson is about giving of yourself, with or without a physical gift to actually give.

While thinking about this we stumbled upon a lovely little story about how one family handled both the “Santa isn’t real” revelation and the “Santa is real” in spirit thing. Heck, the story may even be true! A Dad sensed that his son was pretty much on the cusp of discovering that the guy in the red suit wasn’t the real deal. His approach? He talked to his son about how he sensed that he, the son, looked like he was not too sure about the Santa Claus character. The Dad complimented his son on being a caring young man: “Everyone who cares, who is generous can be a Santa. I’m very impressed by how kind you are. I think you are ready to become a Santa, too.”

The Dad went on to ask his son to think about someone in his world who looked like they were sad. Maybe a bit lonely even. He tasked the boy with thinking very hard about what that person might really like as a present. Something they needed, and something that would express that whoever gave it to them realized this need, and cared enough to give them a present that helped to meet that need. There was a catch, though: the recipient was never to know who gave them the gift. For the son the satisfaction was in the caring and in the giving, not in the recognition and praise that might follow.

It doesn’t really matter who the child chose or what he gave; you can trust that the story–true or not–is just lovely right to the end. What matters is that this very young boy is escorted through what can be a very sad stage in a young life by a caring and thoughtful parent. On the other side of this journey emerges a young man who has learned the true meaning of Santa Claus in the secular Christmas story. He has learned that what matters about Santa Claus is real indeed, and always has been.

Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving. He will always be real.

I’ll see you next Sunday, Christmas day…

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