When I was little, just a tad older than my tot is now, we were extremely poor. We had this big house near the forest, but none of us had beds and we were lucky we had a couch. Someone rigged our cable and we actually had MTV and that was our prized possession. I remember the room my sister and I shared as pretty bare. There were the blanket mats we slept on, but I don’t recall much else outside of some toys scattered here and there. We tried to decorate our room once with pictures we colored, but the absence of tape had us using ramen noodles… that didn’t go over so well.
We had caught most of our food by fishing and crabbing in the ocean. Sometimes my Dad would catch an Eel or a Stingray and he could sell it to some fisherman or another and we’d have extra. I remember him teaching us about the different plants we could eat outside and that’s how I got to eating wild spinach and leaves with vinegar and learned about Sassafras tea. I also carry with me a love of Raspberries because we had so many bushes in the woods and they were magical treats for my sisters, brothers and I.
There was a lot of beauty that filled up all we lacked there. It was also the home, the place of our deepest debts and poverty, that taught me about Santa.
The Christmas we had there was quite small. My Dad was able to get a tree that was maybe 2ft tall, already wired for lights and sat on an end table that my Mom put a blanket on. None of us, other than my youngest brother, believed in Santa Claus. We were very well versed in the bible and our faith did not uphold holidays, but we did it in spite of that for our traditions. This was also why all of us knew we weren’t really going to get anything on Christmas, we were very understanding of our situation and I don’t remember any of us asking for anything at any point in time (for Christmas or otherwise). But I do remember my parents being especially happy this year and when the morning came and we all stumbled from our lacking bedrooms, there were presents all around that little 2ft tree. In my mind, which has the memory of a child, there were presents everywhere, but I know it was not that many. We just never had much so a little seemed so big at the time.
Our family had sent presents. My grandmothers, my aunts, uncles and others sent presents up to our home on the east coast. Each box with a tag or written script that said “From Santa”, so we wouldn’t know that our parents didn’t give us anything. It was then that I believed in Santa Claus, not as other children believed in him, but a secret magical goodness inside of the world that gave to my family. That gave us Christmas.
As I grew older I remembered that Christmas. When times got very hard for my son and I on our own, the magic of Santa Claus visited us and my family helped me as we were once helped long ago. My teen, then just a little boy, asked me why I never received any presents from Santa Claus and I told him that when we grow older we learn the secret of Santa Claus and then we no longer receive gifts from him. When he was old enough to understand it made sense to him, but he had a strong admiration and was overwhelmed with emotion upon learning that even in our hardest times Santa still came – our family was there.
So you see, Santa is real. I carry him inside me just as all parents, all across the world, carry him inside of them. We hold the magic and the secrets of Christmas in each of us.
This year, as I have for many years, sent gifts to someone who had nothing to give. The gifts will go under a tree with the little tags of “From Santa”, for the children. I imagine that one day one of the children that we have helped will grow older and learn the secrets and in turn help another family believe, as I had when I grew up and learned the story. I no longer see Santa as a big jolly ole fellow with a red suit and boots, but I see him as each of us, a part of our childish hearts that holds onto the belief in the impossible. A part of us that believes that goodness and love can make anything happen.
I hope we all have very merry Holidays, no matter what we believe in.