Ah, Santa. The Santas around my home have captured my attention much more this year. For a while Santa's secularness and connection with the material part of Christmas sort of drove me nuts. So for the past few years I've been kind of down on the idea of Santa. This year I'm back to liking Santa more. I started thinking how hard my family worked to keep the magic of Santa alive for me when I was young, and what a true gift that is to me. My sister submitted my name somewhere so I would receive a letter from Santa, probably when I was two or three. My mom kept it, and added it to the Christmas decorations I put up in my room each year. It was big deal for me to pick out the cookies and the milk glass I'd leave for Santa on Christmas Eve. And Santa wrapped his gifts really well, and always in Santa paper.
The pictures are of a Santa decoration I've had since I was probably five or so. I believe it was a gift from a neighbor. Now I'm struck by the craftsmenship of it - it's so rare to see wooden toys and decorations now. It's always hung in my bedroom - at my parent's, on my closet door, and now at my place on my bedroom door. There's a little pull string on the bottom that moves Santa's legs and arms, which makes the little bells tinkle. I love it.
When I was in college I enjoyed watching my nephew, Andrew, live in awe of Santa. I would help him pick out cookies and pour milk and write his note to Santa. I'd stay up with my sister and help assemble toys and cardboard blocks and wrap Santa gifts. One year Santa came out to my sister's house and Andrew had a personal visit with him. He asked for a "comfortable quiet." My dad laughed so hard and couldn't believe how Andrew could know what we would all want for Christmas. If you knew Andrew at the time, this was completely fitting. He was perhaps the loudest, and somewhat obnoxious, little 3 year old. When Santa left, Andrew looked at us with big eyes and asked, "Santa drives a Ford Taurus?" (my brother-in-law worked for Ford at the time, so that's how Andrew knew about the Taurus). And after he drove away, I watched out the window as Andrew and my mom stood out in yard and walked all around the house, little Andrew pointing at the roof and mom explaining how Santa will find a way inside to deliver presents on Christmas night.
These memories simply delight me. Many of my Santa gifts are long gone, but the thoughtfulness and care my family took - and the enjoyment I've had "on the other side" of Santa - keep me believing in the magic people bring to this season.