One Christmas Eve when I was about eight years old, I was sitting alone on my best friend Dana’s front lawn when I heard tinkling bells high in the night sky above me. I looked up and saw, in great detail, Santa Claus and his sleigh, complete with reindeer, and Rudolph leading the way with his blinking, red nose. I was dumbstruck. I ran inside and told Dana. I don’t think he believed me.
I saw Santa another time while gazing at the colorful lights of our Christmas tree. All of a sudden, there he was, climbing and falling through a neon firmament. I saw him so well, I blinked and blinked but couldn’t stop seeing him. I ran into the front room and told my parents and brother, who were immersed in a TV show, that I had just seen Santa in the lights of our Christmas tree. They all looked at each other, then back at me, then at each other again. My mother said, “That’s nice, honey.” My dad rolled his eyes. My brother did, too. I walked back to the other room, crestfallen, and gazed at the tree again, trying to recapture Santa.
A few minutes later, my brother sat down beside me, probably feeling bad that nobody believed me, and said, “Okay, where is he?” I taught him how to cross his eyes and squint so that the lights of the tree spired outward in all directions and diffused, making them even more brilliant and magical.
I said, “You can’t just look at the tree. It’s a different way of seeing.”
He was clearly skeptical but played along anyway. He tried for a minute or so, then said, “This is stupid. I don’t see anything.”
“Keep trying,” I said. “It took me a while, too.”
I hadn’t yet found Santa again when he yelled, “I see him! I see him!” His eyes were wide as pancakes. This time we both ran into the front room. My brother yelled, “It’s true! Santa is in the Christmas tree!”
My parents did another double-take, then begrudgingly got up and came in. They both sat by the tree. My dad said, “Okay, show me.” I taught them the magic gaze, too. After only ten seconds or so, way too early to have found the big guy, my father unenthusiasticly said, “Oh, yeah. There he is. I see him now. Don’t you see him, sweetheart?”
“Oh, yes! My goodness! There he is!” my mother replied.
My brother and I weren’t buying it. It was obvious we were being appeased and patronized. They both thanked us for showing them Santa and went back to their TV show.
My brother was about twelve at the time, in that in-between time when there’s still some magic left but it’s starting to fade. Only adults who have fought daily to hold onto the magic have any left in them. At this writing, I still blur the lights on our Christmas tree, and on houses in the neighborhood, to see if the magic is still there. I find it is weaker when I’m sad than it is when I’m happy. The magic has been weaker than ever the last few years because my father died in late 2014. I’ve never been one for marking negative anniversaries, but this was different. It’s like the magic left with him. But it’s not gone completely, and I’ll fight to hang on to what’s left. That which is precious and sacred must be protected.