This I Believe

Thomas - San Diego, California
Entered on December 4, 2006

This I believe: the reason for the season is Santa and that belief can undermine all else.

Why do we spend billions of dollars on homeland defense technology when a group of children determined to get to the bottom of Santa Claus can do a better job inspecting packages arriving in our ports?

After purchasing all that my son and daughter might want from Santa I left the toys in the trunk of the car—my first mistake.

Then, this past Sunday I loaded the car with both kids and drove for groceries, completely forgetting what was still in the trunk—second mistake.

We made our way out of the supermarket and I headed toward my date with destiny in the parking lot.

My five year old daughter waited for me by the side door while I prepared to load the groceries. I opened the trunk, saw the toys and gasped—final mistake. It was actually a little more than just a gasp and my daughter sensing danger—or something—repeated the regrettable expression and immediately came at me like an airport security official who thought I was holding an open bottle of water, as I immediately slammed down the trunk with a second to spare.

My daughter’s next reaction was a confluence of words: “there’s my little pony and giraffes for Princesses and Dora on the train.”

How ever did she manage to see every toy in the trunk and remember each one of them, both hers and her brothers—let alone express it all in one sentence? She had only had but a second. In the next moment a multitude of options spiraled down upon me like the red and the white laces of a candy cane: protect youth; maintain Santa; Jesus is the reason for the season; plausible deniability—while I desperately tried to stop laughing under the weight of the parking lot interrogation.

Denial first—“You saw nothing! There is nothing in the trunk!” My daughter immediately rejected that nonsense: “There is a Little Pony in the trunk,” she refuted with arms crossed on her chest.

Logic next—“Is there?” I asked. “Well that all depends on what the definition of the word ‘is’ is”—but she immediately saw through that one, tossing it aside, making me feel like a subversive terrorist passing a checkpoint under the gaze of a government threatened by an encroaching spiritual movement.

Finally, magic—“You only imagined you saw something.” “No, I saw it,” came the swift reply. The world as I believed my daughter knew it seemed like it was about to end—the earth about to stop spinning around the sun at the very extreme of its trajectory—as I faced a memory like steel trap, eyes that could photograph a landscape in a microsecond, and a mind that must be loaded with facial recognition software.

I heard that Phoenix Airport is experimenting with an X-ray that can see through clothes and discern body parts with amazing detail. Why bother? All we need do is tell children that Santa might be sneaking a few toys into the country. Such machines would pale in comparison with children who thought Santa’s subversive elves were in one of those massive crates coming into the port in Long Beach.

I called my wife and gave her coded instructions, convinced that my daughter could even spell the word ‘bamboozle’. I parked the car and walked around the garage with the kids while my wife swooped through the other door, emptied the trunk and hid the toys. My daughter immediately ran for my wife and together they opened the trunk of the car and saw… nothing! Mission accomplished: faith in Santa restored.

In the calm after the storm I wondered what motivated my need to protect my daughter’s belief in Santa Claus.

Christianity embraced common beliefs and now some evangelists have resolved that it alone is the reason for the season when, in reality, Jesus was born in summer, and the reason for the season is the solstice—the realization that the days will soon get longer, the world will not end, the earth will continue rotating and a new year will deliver endless possibilities, as my daughter continues to shake off magic dust as she continues her entrance into a new world.

The stories of Christmas, Hannukah, Ramadan, and Kwanzaa, promulgate dying for sins, fighting the Macabees, Jihad and Collective Work and Economics—oh my goodness. In the Santa Claus story there is a jolly fellow in a red suit who delivers gifts to children on a magic sleigh—a story manifestly more subversive in its fundamental and joyous simplicity that is devoid of devotion and infused with ascendant aspiration.

In a world where people fly planes into buildings, I hope to protect my daughter’s belief in someone who flies reindeer onto rooftops and whose justification is to magnify the joyous innocence of childhood spirituality and who is encumbered not by competing religious beliefs, but simply by gifts—just lots of toys; toys that were not, nor ever were, in the trunk of my car—so help me God: one more year, thank you God for the gift—one more precious year.