Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Santa Claus Will Always Be Real

1 Cookies. Ninjabread Men. Oh yeah.

2 Family. ‘Tis the Christmas season in the Christian world. If ever there’s a time we seek to connect this is it. Planes, trains, and automobiles, we move Heaven and Earth to get ourselves together. Not Facebook or Twitter or Email together, either. Nope, real live, honest to goodness, reach out and touch connecting.

I like to think of it as “hugging distance”.

On Christmas Day I will be in the Low Country of South Carolina. Our daughter, Megan, informed us that despite our annual pre-Christmas tradition of baking cookies together it has been nine years since we have celebrated Christmas Day itself together. Oh my! My siblings and I have historically hosted our folks in turn, each of us having the privilege of their presence every 4 years. Now unable to travel, in order for my Mom to connect we four must go to her. This year my sons Dan and Randy will pinch hit until my brother and I arrive for just barely post-Christmas visits in her new Cleveland home.

If you are very observant you might have noticed a couple of connections missing from my list above. Postal service and phone calls are how the extended White family has always communicated. Once upon a time my Mom sent each of us a postcard every day. That’s every single day. Four of us. We called and talked on the phone, all of us. We still call and we still talk (you young’uns might have a fleeting knowledge of what that green “call” button on your texting instrument is there for), but the postcards have stopped, and Mom needs someone with her to both make and receive calls.

Aged and bent, very nearly (but not yet quite) broken, Mom’s life has shrunken to the point where nearly all that is left is that most intimate of connections, the one that can only be made by walking through the front door.

For most of us we actually have two families, the one we were born into and the one we choose, and that chooses us. If you are still working you have a “work family”. Heck, a few of my close professional colleagues have “work spouses” and they travel to conferences together. But typically your work family is chosen for you.

Once again I’m thinking about friends here. Your friends, especially your close friends or those in the circle just outside “close”, are what one thinks about when describing your chosen family. This week Beth and I hosted one of our “families” for a Holiday dinner. We have have done this in some form since our children were pre-schoolers when we all got together as families to sing Christmas carols and eat cookies. Now all of our kids have fledged. Some have children of their own. Yet, still, this group of friends continues to choose each other. We are friends, but we are something more.In this moment in time when we live close we have chosen to be a kind of family.

This is not one of those wistful “oh I wish” or “oh if only I had” posts. Our lives proceed as they will. As they have. We connect and we disconnect. Sometimes quite deliberately, on purpose, and sometimes quite simply by accident. At any one time, though, we are connected to some someones, and our connections might still include a Mom and a Dad. Anyone who’s been here awhile and read any of my nonsense might remember my posts around this time in years past. I travel on Christmas this year with one part sorrow at the leaving, and two parts joy at the destination. This year I still have a child’s front door to open, with the love of my life holding my hand as we walk through.

My Mom waits in her new home for my return where one more time, to my great surprise and delight, “[W]e’ll get together then, Mom. We’re gonna have a good time, then.”

2 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 tomorrow, on Christmas Day…

One Response to “Santa Claus Will Always Be Real”

  1. December 24th, 2023 at 12:15 pm

    Mark Saad says:

    Thank you for sharing. Very poignant message on multiple levels. The inevitable change and coming to terms with the changes of the families we are born into and loss of the patriarchs and matriachs to age and end of life has its own overwhelming impact. The awareness of the impact of Santa both in perceived real and actual spiritual form was described very wel. We are suspicious though not certain that our third and youngest is crossing that bridge (middle school has a detonating impact on certain things) and I appreciate having Beth’s wise words to share. Merry Christmas

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