I close the book and turn off your light.
“Mommy,” you say, “why can’t grownups hear the bell and children can?”
“Children still believe in the spirit of Christmas,” I say. “Adults find it hard.”
“What is believe?” you ask.
I think about your school friend telling you she believes in Jesus and how you love the story of the baby born under that bright star. Sitting on your bed, the softness of the blankets and all your childhood things surrounds me in the glow of the nightlight.
“Belief is when you feel something to be true though you don’t fully understand it,” I say.
You pause and look into my eyes for more.
“Yeah,” you say. “Like I believe Santa will bring me a pony even though we don’t have a field or a stable for it to live in.”
I smile, “Well, I guess there’s a difference between believing something and wanting something.”
“Oh, yeah,” you say and wait.
“When you believe something, you’re still, maybe you close your eyes,” I say.
I feel my way with words, not knowing whether my words will work for you.
“Wanting falls away a little,” I add, “and you know without trying. Believing doesn’t hurt your heart like wanting.”
“Yeah, and maybe I can want something so much, then I believe it,” you say, sitting up. You’re looking at me, then away.
“Yes, that happens sometimes,” I say and kiss your forehead.
“Mommy,” you say, “why is it hard for grownups to believe in Christmas?”
“Adults think they know a lot,” I say.
“But they don’t, do they?” you ask.
“We don’t understand the spirit of Christmas any more than children do.”
“But you can feel it, right?” You kiss my lips and wrap your arms around my neck, our bedtime ritual.
I sit up, ready to go, then sigh my eyes closed. “If I close my eyes,” I say, “and listen quietly, sometimes I can feel what Christmas must be.”
“Right now?” you whisper.
I know you’re watching me to see what belief looks like, or prayer.
“Right now, or anytime. I guess it doesn’t have to be Christmastime,” I say.
“You can feel Christmas in April?” you ask. “Without snow or Santa or anything?”
Your birthday is in April. I think about the ground melting, the warmth that rises from the earth. It’s something you feel more than remember.
“Yes, but we don’t call it Christmas in the Spring,” I say. “There are different stories.”
Your eyes close and then open. “I like the stories,” you say.
“I do too,” I answer.
Your eyes close again. “Yeah,” you say. And you sink down into the pillow and blankets, your face up.
“I just love you,” you say without opening your eyes.
“I just love you,” I answer and rise to go. Then I stand in your doorway and look in.
“Goodnight, Mommy,” you say.
“Goodnight, sweetheart. Sleep well.”
I close your door, leaving it a little open so I can hear.
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