We succumbed. We made our way to a mall (the less popular one in our city, on a weekday, as soon as it opened–because we don’t do malls and crowds and crazy), and our son paid a visit to old St. Nick. He first met Santa (as far as he remembers) at a local craft fair a couple of weeks ago. This Santa gave him a candy cane–his first ever–and he may have even given him a high five. These were two major points in his favor. The other factor is that Santa slightly resembles BG’s grandpa, whom he adores and idolizes.
I think there was a time that my wife was unsure about the whole Santa thing, whether we would tell our son about him, whether we would fill him in. I’m honestly glad she’s turned around. Our son is faced with so much reality, but it is so uncommon that we get to lose ourselves in mythology these days. With Santa, we get to indulge in a little myth, and that makes me feel connected to something really old. Humans have always had our gods and goddesses, our saints, our muses. This is part of the wonder of being human–entertaining that imagination, believing in something greater–or at least more interesting–than our everyday lives. Choosing to explore Santa in this way makes this a little more meaningful to me.
But to BG, he’s a cool guy who gives out candy, and as far as he knows, nobody else on earth does that (his moms sure as hell don’t, much to BG’s chagrin), so Santa is pretty fabulous to him. That, however, is all the meaning he has ascribed to him, and isn’t that the joy of being a child?
The wonder I find in this is that BG is not a fan of strangers or even people he doesn’t see often. He’s a bit shy and slow to warm up to people. So when we saw this Santa in the mall, and he walked right up to the guy, it was pretty surprising. At first he wasn’t interested in his lap, but he did sit down next to him. A few moments later, he was fine with sitting on his lap to pose for a few photos. A proper California Santa, this Santa called him “dude” and even said, “Right on!” a few times. Then Santa gave him a candy cane lollipop, and BG was thrilled (although ready to move on once the transaction had taken place). My mom was with us and bought photos. She’s a sucker, but I suppose this year we probably would have done it ourselves because we’ve become suckers too. I’ve become smitten with tradition. Oh, who am I kidding. I’ve always loved ritual and tradition. I get weepy at parades. Seriously.
There’s something very special about seeing a child recognize an icon like this. Santa is an archetype, one that my son already recognizes, even without media exposure. I find a good deal of joy in watching him fall for this guy. I know people worry about the letdown of learning that Santa is a myth, but if a child is raised with a healthy understanding of mythology, with an understanding of the imaginary, I’m not sure there’s any need for concern. I adored Santa as a child, but as I realized he was not real, I perpetuated the myth–for my parents, for my younger siblings–and it was still special to me. This chance to start all over again with Santa, well, that’s pretty wonderful too.
So here he is: my boy who hasn’t slept in a month or so, and Santa Claus himself: