|Vineyard Blizzard ’13 dee|
It was the Easter of second grade that I did the calculations. My family lived in a quirky house on River Road in Piscataway, New Jersey. After all the festivities of Easter – the baskets (with gifts of every nature, but limited candy. My mother didn’t approve of sugar.) our new dresses with white patent leather shoes and bobby socks, the church service during which I inevitably fell asleep on my mother’s lap (embarrassing my father with my indelicate snoring) and the enormous ham dinner with all the trimmings that I gave voice to my growing suspicion. My mother and I were tidying up the living room at the end of that long Easter day when I finally summoned my courage to broach the subject. With pounding heart (after all, I knew what was at stake if I was right), I spoke with trepidation,
“Mom, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I just can’t see how the Easter bunny gets into the house to fill our baskets.”
“That’s why we leave the front door unlocked,” was her breezy response. I clearly remember my gaze passing over my sister, already in sixth grade, who, while remaining silent, had a bit of a smirk on her face. I read her like a book and knew immediately that there was more to the story than my mother was telling me.
I persisted, “I saw Dad lock up the house last night, though.”
At that point, my mother called for my father,
“Ken, can you come in here for a moment, please?” When he arrived, my mother instructed me to restate my suspicions. I sat on the edge of a small cream and gold love seat with my hands pressed together between my knees. Haltingly, I asked the question that was at the heart of it. “There is no Easter Bunny, is there? It’s just you and Mom, right?”
“Well, dear, it’s Mom’s and my job to help keep the spirit of the Easter Bunny alive. Even your sister helps.” My sister’s face was serious and even appeared a bit concerned now. From her reaction, I knew I was getting the news straight.
With lightning recognition, it struck me,
“That means there is no Santa Claus either, right? I mean, we don’t even have a fireplace in this house and how could he be at so many places at once? If there is no Easter Bunny, there can’t be a Santa Claus.”
My mother said, “This is about keeping the spirit of these characters alive. That’s our job. It’s not that they aren’t real; they just are not real in the way you thought they were. And they are still real for other children who still believe.”
“Does that mean God is not real, either?”
”The Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and God are all ideas we carry in our hearts. We believe in them because they are about renewal and giving and love.”
My father said, “I have something I would like to share with you, I’ll be right back.” I heard him go into my parents’ room, open a small door that was in his bureau. He kept special papers and mementoes there; I knew because I peeked when I was putting away his laundry on occasion. I had certainly missed this little piece. My questions triggered an impromptu family gathering in the living room on the evening of Easter Sunday in 1965. I sat leaning close to my mother. My sister sat on the other side of her. My father, thespian that he was, stood, holding a paper in his hand, and began to speak in a deep and sonorous voice.
“My father read this to me when I was about your age, Dawn. Back in 1897, a little girl named Virginia was trying to figure out if Santa Claus was real. In September, 1897, her father told her to write to the newspaper to find out. The response to Virginia’s question appeared on Sept. 21, 1897 in an editorial called Is There a Santa Claus?
My father read,
'Dear Editor -- I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says ''If you see it in The Sun it's so.'' Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
--Virginia O'Hanlon, 115 West 95th Street
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.’ ” Authored by Francis Pharcellus Church, New York Sun.
That Sunday, when I was seven-years old, was the first time I can remember crying tears of joy and sorrow simultaneously. One thing was abundantly clear. I had a job to do for the rest of my life. I had to ensure that I kept alive the spirit of Santa.
So, when my five year old daughter came home from Kindergarten upset because one of the children had used her sharing time to tell the other children Santa was not real, I was prepared. I started with a little girl named Virginia.
For that, I thank Mr. Church, my parents, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and God.