Two weeks ago, I was pushing my cart towards the exit doors at Kroger. With one arm, I fumbled through my purse for my keys. With the other, I slowly steered the cart. Just as I had my keys in hand and was ready to pick back up my speed, I heard a voice.
“Excuse me, miss,” a man near the door said. Begrudgingly, I looked over. I imagine I was wearing a wonderful shade of Resting B-face. I knew my nap time window was closing and I needed to keep moving to stay on schedule.
Standing in front of me was a man whose head was adorn with the most beautiful white hair and matching beard. He was wearing khaki pants and a red long-sleeved button-up shirt. He did not need boots, a red coat or a black belt. “Have you been good this year?” he asked gently and sincerely.
I smiled and figured I would play along, “I think so.”
“You know who I am, right?”
“Here,” with a twinkle in his eye, he offered me a sparkly Christmas sticker. In the kindest voice said, “you have a good day and a Merry Christmas.”
“Thank you and you too.” As I started to move towards the door, I paused. “You just made my day,” I added.
Walking away, I entertained the possibility that Santa is real. Foolish, I know, to start believing in Santa again at 35.
Over the following days, it was all feeling magical to me. I sang along to Christmas songs. I read stories about reindeer as my children listened intently. I watched my boys squeal in delight as we rode a Christmas train. I listened to my dad tell me about his donations to Dare to Care and Family Scholar House (my dad does not like his generosity made public, but see this earlier post. Observability drives similar behavior!).
At the center of all of it was the concept of celebrating Santa. This mythical character who accomplishes impossible feats of generosity all to make children, loved ones and strangers have a magical Holiday season. As the days passed, I was more and more convinced that the one who works to bring joy and happiness on Christmas Day exists.
Not all Santas look like the jolly, red-faced, white-haired caricature. Some look like the empty nesters next door who still adorn their bushes with colorful lights. The aunts trekking out after a long day of work to pick up gifts for nieces and nephews. The parents preparing a feast for the grown family home for the Holidays. The moms and dads taking time off work to spend with children – young and grown. The friends and family members hassling with travel to spend time with their loved ones. Or the children and strangers dropping gifts in the toy collection basket. Being Santa gives us all an earthly way to embody the spirit and purpose of Christmas.
I have many Santas in my life. My first Santas, thanklessly, worked hard to ensure our needs and wants were met and managed effectively to teach us the value in gifts – giving and receiving – and risks of greed. My current Santa helps me put the tree up and string lights outside for the kids (and everything else in between to make Christmas special). And I finally get to play Santa to my own children – not just my family, friends and strangers.
When I got home from the grocery and told my husband of my Santa sighting, he smiled gingerly. Maybe slightly concerned that his wife might really finally be breaking.
The next week, early on a Sunday morning, he and the boys accompanied me to Kroger. My 3 year old spotted him first. He did not need words to tell me who he saw. His face, wide eyes and open mouth, said it all. I followed his gaze. I nudged our 4 year old to look in the same direction…”Santa!” he quietly gasped.
To all those Santas out there, bearded or not, thanks for the twinkles.