Yesterday, Grace stood next to me in the kitchen. Every few seconds she laughed inexplicably. I raised my eyebrow at her. She laughed again. As I stirred her Ramen, the nervous laughter disappeared.
"Mom, is Santa real?"
Quick. Hit the stop button. Rewind. Anything that would take me away from that moment. I was not ready. Everything in her face told me that every possible cute answer I might give was going to fail. Still, I threw a Hail Mary.
"What do you think?"
"I think he's not real." The duh, Mom was implied.
Last ditch effort. "Well, you know what they say, if you don't believe in Santa, you don't get any presents."
"But I don't believe. Am I not getting presents?"
Sigh. It's over. Christmas will never be the same.
In a way, life will never be the same. She's ten, so we had a good long run, and I'm grateful. It's just that life is so much better when magic feels real. Go to Disney World, and check out people's faces. It's easy to see who "believes" and who doesn't. Believers smile more and complain less about waiting in line. Every time I meet Mickey, I still feel get giddy. The first time I met Snow White, I cried.
But once Faith could walk, we pushed them up to the character lines, and we stood back with cameras, snapping away. Then, on the last day of our most recent trip, we were a little spent, not always feeling particularly magical, so I joined the picture with Mickey. Faith pointed and me and laughed. I jumped up and down. I ran at Minnie with arms wide open. The kids' smiles took over their faces.
"There is still magic, Grace. You know where it is?"
She smiled and nodded, then put her hand on her heart.
I hope she can remember that magic is in all of us. More importantly, it's in our relationships with other people. People are the magic of Disney, after all. Families and friends represent the magic of Christmas. The spirit of Christmas swells in the stories I keep reading about strangers paying layaway and cable bills for others. It's all around us. This is just one time when seeing isn't believing. Just the opposite. Believing is seeing.
I'll always believe.