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Dec 26, 2013
03:30 PM
Health Kick

Yes, Virginia

Yes, Virginia

I don’t know if my son still believes in Santa. He spoke very little of the jolly old elf this year. Santa didn’t really come up in conversation until the two weeks prior to Christmas. I assumed that meant O knew Santa wasn’t real but didn’t mention it. He has had the talk about the birds and bees. If he knows where babies come from, must he not know that Santa can’t possibly be real?

My husband joked that it was because our fourth-grader feared the end of presents. I thought it had more to do with mourning the end of the myth. Like my son, I long for a world with a bit of magic in it. A world of wishes come true and miracles come to pass. A world where we can change the course of events with intention alone. Where fairies dance in the moonlight. Where gnomes roam in garden beds. A world of mermaids and Mary Poppins, clever leprechauns and talking woodland animals, genies in bottles and flying carpets.

Losing Santa isn’t about losing the gifts. It isn’t really about the betrayal, either, although that is not insignificant and has caused me no small amount of worry. It is the loss of protection, the idea that someone is watching over us making sure our path is clear and illuminated.

I’ve seen hints of the disappointment. Earlier this fall, O lost the first tooth he has lost in a long while. It happened on a Sunday morning (at church) and by evening I had forgotten about it. He hadn’t. He dutifully placed the tooth under his pillow. In the morning I spied him as he awoke. My heart was in my throat as I saw him pull back his covers and scour his bed in a panic. But there was nothing there.

His eyes teared up and he angrily announced that the tooth fairy forgot about him. While he was in the bathroom, I shoved a ten-dollar bill (it was the only paper money I had—teeth aren’t generally worth that much in our house) between the mattress and the bedpost as though it had gotten lodged there. When O came out of the bathroom, I encouraged him to take another look.

He found the money and calmed down. He didn’t seem suspicious, although I would have been. It was clearly a patch-up job, but he accepted it.
I suspect he knows there is no tooth fairy. His anger stemmed from the fact that his parents had forgotten him, not that the tooth fairy had. But I’m just not sure.

I think he knows that none of it is true. I think he knows that we are behind the candy in his shoes, the chocolates in his Easter basket, the money under his pillow and the presents under the tree. But he holds onto a glimmer of hope that maybe, somehow, against all reason, he is wrong. Because a world with a little magic in it is far preferable to a world without it.

At least that is how I feel. I still wish on stars and eyelashes and birthday candles. Sometimes the wishes come true. Mostly they don’t. But does wishing and believing hurt? Some doctors say the whole Santa myth doesn’t really do any lasting harm to kids. And I don’t really put any stock in my own wishes. Just because I imagine a lakeside life as my birthday cake appears doesn’t mean I am bitterly disappointed when I remain landlocked in my tiny time-warped split-level. I just feel that the wish can’t be granted if it was never wished in the first place.

These are just the micro fantasies of life. This is why we all flock to see the Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol during the holidays and why we devour Harry Potter’s experiences at Hogwarts and flock to Disneyworld year-round.

I remember watching out the window of my bedroom to see what I believed to be Rudolph’s nose but was really a plane descending toward Midway. Staring at that dark sky, I longed for a glimpse of something that should have been impossible. I willed myself to see it, and I am certain that I did.

Reality can be a constant barrage of lost jobs, betrayals by friends, deaths of loved ones and all of the pedestrian disappointments we encounter on a daily basis. The notion that faith and hope are enough to make something real? Who wouldn’t want to cling to that? 

My dear, sweet O, I apologize for misleading you. I am sorry I let you believe that Santa knew what was in your heart. But before you run off to your room to bury your face in your pillow to cry, know this: I pretended to be Santa to give you the gift of magic. The gift of hope. The gift of faith. The ability to believe that no matter what is going on in your world, no matter how you are feeling inside, that someone is always watching over you and is always on your side.

I hope you will come to see that Santa is not a myth as much as he is a metaphor. Santa stands for the kind of love and security I want you to know as a child and again as an adult. And I hope that you, as an adult, get to experience Santa as a parent. I hope you know the immeasurable joy of making a child’s wish come true.

Santa, I realize now, is for both of us.

He is growing up quickly. This may be the last year that he believes. Or maybe, if I’m lucky, he will cling to the impossible notion that there is indeed some magic in the world and that some day, if he is lucky, he will stumble into it. It is my wish for both of us.

Star light, star bright, wish I may, wish I might …

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About This Blog

Contrary to the title of this blog, I'm not always on a health kick. I try (for the most part) to eat well and exercise regularly, but I'm far, far from perfect. I do, though, enjoy learning about health trends and scientific discoveries, and I hope to share information and pose questions that you might find interesting or useful. Hey, if you get a little inspired while you're reading, all the better. Just don't expect it on a regular basis. I'm a writer, not a celebrity trainer.

Why health? Well, I've been around the block enough times that I don't take it for granted anymore. I also recognize that our health is the result of myriad factors ranging from genetics to diet to habits to socioeconomic status to prejudices and beyond. It's a complicated puzzle with different pieces for each of us. That means there are few guarantees or absolutes and still a ton to discover. I never liked the rigidity of science in practice, but I love the insights it produces.

So let's start 2013 on a Health Kick. With any luck, we'll all be better for it.

– Jennifer Garrett 

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