Each year on Black Friday, I slip into my imaginary Santa suit. The Christmas anxiety hits like a bolt of lightning, as I suddenly become the man in the red ensemble. I have three little kids writing to me, hoping to see me, and promising me they have been good all year. Can I please reward them? They spend hours on their lists, which include enough toys to fill the North Pole and range from the simple and affordable Play-Doh to the impossible and extravagant mini-water bed.
The pressure builds and as Santa, I make my own list. Each child has a column, and I hurriedly fill it in with the gifts I decide I will give them. The kids don’t know it, but what they get for Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with their behavior throughout the year. It’s all financial, baby! And that means mathematical. As Santa, I have to solve the equation of how I can provide the most coveted toys for each child on a budget, while making sure that the children’s piles are completely fair.
Welcome to honors algebra. You have limited money, three children, and three respective lists. Each child expects one BIG gift. Each child must also receive the same exact number of gifts on Christmas morning. You have three and a half weeks to solve. Go!
Most of my days are spent trying to solve this equation in a way that will make Christmas morning the way it would be if Santa were real. But he is not. I am not Santa. I am single mom on a budget, who wishes every single night before bed, from Black Friday to Christmas morning, that the man in the red suit was, in fact, delivering gifts on Christmas morning. I even put things on layaway with the hope that the Layaway Santa you always hear about in the news will pop into my Walmart and purchase my toys for me. I have toys sitting in Walmart Layaway right now waiting for the Magic Layaway Santa. Filling Santa’s shoes is such a task.
In addition to lists and equations, becoming Santa requires that I lead a double life. I must protect my secret identity. Packages arrive at the doorstep, and I have to run into the house before the kids so much as unbuckle their seatbelts. I sprint to the door to do the grab and hide, as I call it. I have hiding spots all over my house and I must remain vigilant at all times, keeping the kids from discovering these secret spots.
I find myself lying a lot to protect my secret identity. “Mommy, what is in that box? Can I open it?” “Noooooo. That box is something that Grandma got you for Christmas. She sent it here because she doesn’t know If she will see you on Christmas.”
Dodged a bullet. It was good lie, it’s okay.
The kids want to use my phone or computer. Normally, I say sure, go ahead. But when I am leading my double life I have to be very careful. Wait! I just need it for a minute. Delete search history. Phew. But this bullet is not dodged thanks to those dumb ads for hover boards popping up left and right, because, well, I have been spending lots of online time looking for a hover board. Damn internet may be the one to blow my cover. Sorry, kids, I need my phone for a while.
It is a full-time job, maintaining this double life. Do I enjoy it? Hell no. But it’s the last piece of true magic left in my kids’ lives. I fear that once they know and accept that Santa isn’t real, magic changes forever. Sure, there is still magic to be found in good people, spiritual experiences, the act of giving, and the rare amazing coincidence or hard-earned victory. But I worry that nothing compares to that vulnerable, naive, and innocent belief that, “ Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause.”
So I will wear my imaginary Santa suit as best I can this season. I will work overtime to keep my double life a secret, and I will embrace my secret identity. I will solve that algebraic equation, if going over my budget and taking on some new debt to make Christmas morning as special as possible counts as solving it.
Why do it? Honestly, I am jealous. I want to believe in Santa, too. Imagine how great life would be if he were, indeed, real. No shopping, no wrapping, no budget or silly algebraic equations. Just magic. I do it to keep that beautiful magic alive in the hearts and minds of my kids for as long as humanly possible.
My own mother broke the news about Santa by telling me about the spirit of Saint Nick and how it has endured throughout the years, embodied each year by parents everywhere. When I think about it, I guess, Moms, we are magic, aren’t we? Slipping into those metaphorical suits, wearing the Spirit and all that entails. That is pretty damn special, isn’t it? Some might even say magical.