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The Day We Lost Santa Claus (And Why It Was Wonderful, Too)

September 16, 2012

The Tragic, Terrible Day We Lost Santa Claus and Why It Was Wonderful, Too

It all started at 2am. 

My five year old woke me up, sobbing and frightened. “I can’t breathe!” He started to cough, dry and harsh, barking like a seal.

Croup. Oh boy! 

I hopped out of bed and stumbled around, disoriented, trying to figure out what to do with my sleep-foggy brain. Scrappy continued barking and sobbing in between. Hysterical and getting worse. WhatdoIdo? WhatdoIdo? I’m panicking. Gabe thumped in. Give him his inhaler.

Inhaler! Yes! We have an inhaler!

We haven’t used it in over two years, but we do have an inhaler from toddler days, thank God.

Ten minutes, four puffs and a stint at the open bedroom window, counting stars and breathing in the cold, moist night air and he was as good as new, but for the raspy voice, sunken eyes and hacking cough. But still, remarkably improved.

He snuggled up in his blankies and promptly went back to sleep, unscathed.

It took me a bit longer than that to wind down, wondering what the rest of the day would bring.

It was promising to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Three phone calls and long wait times later, and, being it Saturday, a trip to the 24 hour pharmacy three cities over was required.

That trip lasted over an hour. First I waited in the really long line, only to be told that I should have waited in the really short line first, and then the really long line.

I hate waiting. My phone battery died. I waited for another thirty minutes and stood in line again, only to be told that my prescription had been ready for half an hour.

They just forgot to call my name.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

The ride home took forever. There was an accident on the freeway and everyone had to slow down and watch.

When I finally reached my exit, and it was partially closed. The only open lane was in the opposite direction I needed to go.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I looped backwards and forwards and up one way streets, finding my way back to the right direction, only to swerve because a cyclist ran a red light straight into my lane. And then, another car u-turned right in front of me.

The cherry on top of that crazy commute? Scooby, my nine year old along for the ride in the backseat, out of the clear-blue nowhere, asks me very seriously:

“Mom, I really want to know. Do you and dad put the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve? Just tell me the truth.”

No nononononono! This is not happening. Not today. Not right now in the car! I’m not ready!

I stalled. He suspected. I tap-danced. He was on to me.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.. I think I’m going to move to Australia.

I love Christmas. I love keeping Christmas for my kids. I love creating fanciful and mystical fairy-tales filling their imaginations. I never want their belief in the indescribable and incomprehensible to end. I have bent over backwards to maintain this mystical fairy-land of childhood beliefs – the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, and of course, Santa Claus! I even wrote about The Day that I knew would eventually come. I just didn’t want it to be TO-day. Or, really, ever. “I hope this lasts forever. I know it won’t, but I wish it would.”

But what he asked for was the truth. I promised that I would always tell him the truth.

Later that evening, after conferencing on the issue with Gabe, we made the decision and broke the news.

We’ll never lie to you when you ask us for the truth.

We talked about how Santa embodies what is special and wonderful and magical about Christmas. We talked about why we love believing in Santa. We talked about how it would always be special, no matter what. We talked about when it would be like when it was his turn, and keeping Christmas for his own children.

There were a lot of tears. All of them, mine.

He was sad, but gracious – asking clarifying questions I didn’t want to answer. “What about Mudge (our house elf)?” I cried harder.

He left the room. I continued crying. The end of an era had come and I didn’t want to face it. He hasn’t asked about the Tooth Fairy yet, but I know she’s next to fall.

It was a tragic and terrible, no good, very bad day.

And then he came back with these – an origami Santa and two “Helper” tickets, declaring the bearer to be “Santa’s Helpers.”

Nine years old, facing the reality that one of the greatest of child-hood fairy tales has proven false, and… he’s offering us comfort. Absolution. Forgiveness.

It was a tragic and terrible no good very bad day. My boy grew ten years in two hours, and I lost a child.

I think I’m going to move to Australia. Or just go to bed. Surely tomorrow will be better.


Check out the series 31 Days to Shine – 31 days of blogging about a life that glows through the cracks and broken places. 

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2012 5:18 pm

    Oh, Adelle. This is so . . . what do I say? Sad? Wonderful? Insightful? Tender? Yes, yes, yes. All of the above. Sigh.

  2. September 16, 2012 5:30 pm

    I hope my fingers are in the right place on the keyboard. These tears in my eyes are getting in the way. Diana described it well-“sad and wonderful” and I believe “wonderful” always trumps “sad”. I saw the pictureof the origami Santa and I thought to myself, “how did he come up with that?” Then I answered myself, “Well look who his parents are!” Adelle, you ‘splained it to him (a little Lucky and Ricky talk there) and he got it!!! He gets it! You and Gabe are Santa’s helpers!!!! Santa is still in the picture to him. This is amazing and guess what, my dear one, right here is the makings of a wonderful children’s book. It will be as famous as “Elf on the Shelf” complete with 2 tickets and the word ticket misspelled. I’m enthralled.

    Hope little brother is feeling better. What’s going on in California that Heather’s boy and yours both got croup? Love you all, Pat

  3. September 16, 2012 5:31 pm

    Your boy really is one in a million. That is so uniquely him.

  4. Nancy Gallardo permalink
    September 16, 2012 6:20 pm

    Oh, Adelle, you made me cry. I know that day will come for me too. I am another believer in the magic of Christmas. You have a wonderful boy to be comforting you. It is the end of one stage, but the beginning of another. Remember to enjoy every one. 🙂

  5. Lisa permalink
    September 16, 2012 6:31 pm

    Yep! I remember that day with Matt too but then he totally still believed in the Easter Bunny for another year! Honestly, I had a hard time with the Easter Bunny. I think I figured that one out first and then the rest fell. Matt was an Engineer even then and just really couldn’t think Santa could make it in and out all those houses, up and down all those chimneys, time changes ,,, logistics … I knew I was beat and I caved in! Scrappy still believes though!

  6. kelleywilson permalink
    September 16, 2012 6:38 pm

    Praying for this horrible, no good, very bad day. Lucas is just two and I still don’t know how to do all that!! So thankful for your insight on how things happen!!

  7. Elaine permalink
    September 17, 2012 8:46 am

    Sorry you had a no good very bad day… but I love this post! So real, and wow! to how Scoob (and you guys) handled the Santa Clause confrontation. The magic isn’t gone… he’s just in on it now. And I don’t think I need to scout out any homes for you in Australia 😉

  8. September 19, 2012 2:34 pm

    Oh lord Adelle, this one got me! I’m terrified of the same day coming (bad enough I have to take my almost 10 year old shopping for a training bra – ack)! I’ve always loved your way with words, and it seems your kids have and are learning so much from you. Good job in explaining, I’ll be tearing this page out of your book when my time comes!


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