Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Truth about Santa Claus

It seems that now more than ever, I hear a lot of talk about this topic. I would like to put in my two cents. I believe in Santa Claus.

True Story:

Once upon a time, I was an eight-year-old girl, the fourth of eight children. One night in December, my parents announced that a special visitor would be coming to our house. Before long, Kris Kringle rang our doorbell. (This was his legal name.) He was jolly, thick man with a full white beard. He wore a red suit.

While he was in our little house, each of us children got a turn to sit on his lap and tell him what we wanted for Christmas. That year was my turn to do an extra-curricular activity and I was enrolled in gymnastics. My Christmas list consisted of a gymnastics mat, a typewriter that could type both red and black, and a reversible coat (two coats in one!). I gave Mr. Kringle the list of my heart's desires and he gave me a candy cane and a coloring book.

When it was time for our special guest to leave, he said this, "I have to get back to the North Pole now.
I am going to leave a little surprise for you on the porch, but don't open anything until Christmas Day. It will take me a couple of minutes to hitch up my sleigh and reindeer. Don't look out the window for a full ten minutes to give me enough time to leave, okay?"

I remember two things about the next ten minutes: my parents kept wrestling us away from the living room curtains and it was the longest ten minutes of my life.

At the end of the allotted time, when we opened our front door, we saw magic. Our entire porch, which ran the length of our rancher, was covered in wrap presents--piles and piles of gifts of every size.

Christmas morning, when we were finally allowed to rip into those packages, what do you think I found?

Yep: a gymnastics mat, a typewriter that could type both red and black, and a reversible coat--with zip-off sleeves (an added bonus from the elves, I guessed)!

Now, some people say that Santa Claus is not real, but I know differently. I have never been to the North Pole so I cannot speak of the existence of a massive workshop manned by little people, but I can speak of the magic-making love I have felt this and other Christmas mornings. I believe that love and manifestations of it can come from many sources. And if those sources fall under the name, "Santa Claus," I am totally fine with that. I welcome Santa and his magic into my home and his love into the hearts of my children. He was a very tender part of my childhood and I hope someday my children will say the same.

Monday, December 13, 2010

There Once Was Girl Bird

Last year, my Maia was part of her school's musical, Grease (a school version--very "cleaned up," as it were). She was cast as Cha Cha DeGregorio. She was the most soft-spoken Cha Cha who has ever lived, I am sure. I was happy that she had fun being in the cast and getting to know so many other kids at her new school. The experience was good for her.

So good, in fact, that she wanted to do it again this year. Her school was going to perform Seussical: The Musical. Before try-outs, I gave her a little pep talk. "Maia, you can sing. You sing the right notes, but people need to actually hear them when you audition, okay?" When she came home from her audition, she assured me that she had been much louder than last year.

When the cast was announced, we learned that she was cast as Gertrude McFuzz, one of the lead roles. I was amazed--not that I didn't think my Maia could do it, but more that I was surprised that she had shown her abilities to the directors.

The week of the play, I was a nervous wreck. I had serious nausea at some points, I kid you not. I knew Maia knew her lines and songs, but I was nervous that she would get nervous and forget. I was worried that people wouldn't be able to hear her. I worried that she would remember that she hates attention. That she'd trip and fall off the stage. Or have a wardrobe malfunction. (You get the idea; I can be somewhat neurotic.)

I worried in vain.

Opening night, ten minutes into the show when she sang her first solo, it became apparent that my Maia is a star! Tears rolled down my face as I watched her sit in the spotlight and sing her little heart out. I couldn't keep a smile off my face all night. She sang all her notes perfectly, didn't miss a cue and was utterly adorable. (And we could hear her just fine.)

It was not without sacrifice that she had this amazing experience. Maia spends hours every night doing homework and had to fit in a couple of rehearsals a week with that intense work ethic for school. I had to drive a carpool and take her to those rehearsals. But, boy, was it worth it.

I could tell after the first performance that her spirit was just soaring. She felt confident, appreciated and supported. Who wouldn't love to feel those things--especially as an adolescent?

As for me, I was overwhelmed by yet another piece of evidence that my little chubby baby is long gone; there is a tall, thin young woman in her place. I was also overwhelmed with the love extended to my girl (and her nervous mom) from relatives, friends and neighbors who came to see her on stage. It warmed my mother heart.

Love this group shot we snapped on the last night: I am clearly mid-word; my Michael is afraid to come any closer lest anyone know that he is with us. But look at the sources of love: grandparents, three beloved aunts, some of her favorite cousins and dear friends.

Quotation of the Month

There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.

-Jill Churchill