The young master pounds on the bathroom door. “Pappa, is Santa Claus real?”
I panic. “Give me a minute.”
“I just want to know.”
Conversation ensues. That this topic should come up out of the blue, in June, is no surprise. When you’re five, time is in constant flux and you live not by the rule of Kronos but in the hands of Kairos–time as experienced, time through the lens of emotion. Just yesterday he started singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in the car (Oh, if I had a nickel…), so I should have seen this coming.
Come to think of it, I live in the mercy of Kairos too. And when he asked that question, you can bet time stopped.
Looking him in the eye and confronted with a direct, guileless, upraised face, I thought “He trusts you. He trusts you. He trusts you.” I tell him that I love pretending Santa Claus is real.
He puzzles this out. “But who do the presents come from?” I invite him to think about it and he comes up with the answer.
“But I sat on his lap once.” Three times, actually. “He ate the cookies and drank the milk we left out. And I heard his boots on the roof!”
Belief is resistant. Facts are enemy of the truth. We end up agreeing that we both like pretending so much we’re going to go right on doing so. By the next day he has consulted my mother, who has assured him that Santa is real and given me a long, withering look. He informs me that I was mistaken. “If you would believe, Pappa, he might bring you a present next Christmas.”
I promise him I’ll try.
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