I've been preparing myself for the time when Sugarplum and Studley ask me point blank if there's a Santa Claus.
I've prepared for this eventuality by treading lightly along the way. I am not (usually) the one who reminds them that Santa is watching and they will be SO HOSED on Christmas morning if they don't shape up. I don't tend to talk about Santa at all, really. I don't want to be called out for a big lie, no matter how goodwilled.
I try to neither deceive, nor undeceive. Especially the latter. Let it be known that I am not a spoil sport.
Still, there are questions.
Last year, our friend played Santa at a Christmas party. Someone spilled the beans, and the kids knew it was their friend behind the beard. Interestingly, it made Santa much more approachable. It was the first Christmas eve they didn't spend screaming their fool heads off while buried in my armpits.
That night, Studley explained to me that Santa needs helpers. Lots of helpers. This explains why one year, TWO Santas appeared at the same party. (One was drunk.)
This year, Sugarplum asked if she could give some of her toys to Santa, so kids who don't have much could get some extras. When my heart finished bursting with pride (that's a lie, it hasn't), I told her we could help Santa by dropping off the toys at one of our community outreach offices. Parents could pick up the toys and give them right to their kids. This would make us elves. And it would save us some shipping.
Sugarplum then began fretting about what happens to people who can't afford a Christmas tree. How will Santa know where to leave the presents?
I told her if Santa knows us well enough to give us a gift, he certainly knows where we'll go looking for it.
How does he do all this? Santa is legion. He starts as a whisper, and works his way into the loneliest places. He finds the forgotten. He doesn't need a tree, or plastic candy canes that blink or the fanciest lights on the block. He finds and cheers us, whatever state we're in. He does, however, like cookies.
This Christmas some friends of mine joined forces with We Can, and hosted Handmade for the Holidays. People were encouraged to knit mittens, hats, blankets, etc. for women and children in need. Did you know that there are over 20,000 single moms living under the poverty line on Cape Cod? Santa's got his work cut out for him.
It's a good thing he has lots of helpers - helpers who know about generosity and grace and joy and warmth.
Without them, Santa is nothing.
With them, Santa is the manifestation of kind-heartedness.
And you better believe I'm going to tell my kids that's real.