Santa Claus is real, but it’s not just a jolly, fat man in a red suit. He doesn’t live in the north pole and he isn’t just flying around with reindeer. The true embodiment of Santa Claus has been with me all of my life. In all of that time, my mother has taken the magic of Christmas and unselfishly, and without expectation of anything in return, brought that to her family year after year.
Growing up, our halls were always decked. Trees in every room, candles in every window and a display of nutcrackers lining the mantle that could rival any department store window. She even won a neighborhood lighting award for her exterior illumination complete with a family of white-lighted deer and a dancing Santa. Christmas cookies in more varieties than I can count delivered to family, friends and all of the teachers at school.
This was the 80s and 90s, so her holiday wardrobe was on point. They weren’t ugly sweaters, they were high fashion. Paired with stirrup pants and elf earrings, she would make Beverly Goldberg swoon. And don’t get me started on the homemade puff paint sweatshirt that depicted her four children staring out the front window on a snowy day. It still comes out during Christmastime and the tiny little bells still jingle.
But it wasn’t just cookies and sweaters and lights, it was about others. Being raised Catholic, we went to mass every weekend and lit the Advent Wreath every night at dinner. Our church had a giving tree and she was sure that each of us chose ornaments with gifts for children and took us shopping so that we understood the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas Eve meant dressing up in our fanciest clothes and attending mass. We made it to midnight mass once, but a few kids fell asleep in the aisles. Christmas Eve was to celebrate the birth of Christ and allowed the morning to be all about the magic.
When Christmas morning came, she never disappointed. Cabbage Patch Kids, Care Bears, Guess Jeans, Adidas Jackets, and every incarnation of Nintendo, she never missed a thing. She made sure that we had what we wanted and even threw in a few things that we needed. Her face on Christmas morning as she watched our dreams come true is something I will never forget.
She has always done everything for us. Without question, she is the most giving person that I know. Giving of her means and her time, she is always there. She has never asked for anything in return, except one teeny tiny little thing. She doesn’t want jewelry of an expensive bag. She’s not interested in the latest greatest technology. For her, it’s a gift of love that means the most. This year marked the 42 year that my three brothers and I have had our picture taken with Santa. From the time I was nine months old, I have sat on Santa’s lap and smiled.
This wasn’t always fun. Imagine being in 8th grade and praying that no one saw you in line. It would have been mortifying. But, I never put up a fight, I never said no, it made her happy. So we did it. No questions asked. As we got older and lived apart, things had to be coordinated. Work schedules, kids and activities all take second place the night that we schedule our picture. Once a date has been chosen, it doesn’t change and we’re all on time. This is a tradition that will never end.
It is magical to look back at these pictures year after year. It is fun to see how styles have changed and how we’ve grown. I’ve been pregnant in four shots and my hair has had more changes than I can count. These photos show how close my brothers and I have remained all of these years. We truly love one another and the smiles you see are real.
As a mother of four myself, I often wonder how she did it. How did she balance being a mom and a wife and a dream maker? I struggle. I can’t do it all. And I don’t know even if I could, I would want to. Certainly not the way that she does. They extra special ingredients in her cookies. The carols on the radio. The fancy sweaters that all have wonderful memories. And Hallmark movies in the kitchen. It is always perfect. We are all so incredibly blessed to have her.
So when people say, do you believe? It is a resounding yes. I believe that Santa is real. I have seen Santa in action my entire life. The spirit of Christmas and of giving were integral in my growing up. It continues today. But now, this magic is shared with grandchildren. That is the best blessing. My children will grow up with the real Santa Claus in their lives too. I just hope that as a humble elf apprentice, I can live up to the magic myself someday.