I can still see the bubbles – I can still feel them on my cheeks. I can hear the splashing – I can feel my two year old brother squirting me with his bath toys. I can hear the sound of my own giggle as I tried to convince my mom to tell me – “Just tell me! Tell me! Plllllease tell me!”
And then Mom told me. Dad had gone to visit Santa. To give him my wish-list. Magic.
I imagined him. If he was visiting Santa, that meant he’d be in the snow. Would he take a sleigh? How did he know where to find Santa? And then I knew: Because magic.
I imagined Santa. Would his white beard glisten as he laughed? What did he wear when he wasn’t in his holiday suit? Where did he keep his reindeer? And what did they eat? And then I knew: Magic.
I can’t remember anything about my wish list. I’m sure it was standard fare for a four-year old. Probably something about a doll or a dress. Maybe my favorite show, which was probably a toss up between Smurfs and He-Man. But see, the list wasn’t the magic part.
My Dad knew Santa. And Santa lived close. In our mountains – my mountains. From that moment on I was officially on “Santa watch” every time we roamed up to our local mountains. Even in the summer. Actually, especially in the summer, because that’s when he’d least expect me to find him. I knew exactly what I was looking for, too. He had to live somewhere with a barn so his reindeer could be hidden away out of sight, and I figured during the summer months Santa probably sported a short-sleeve red plaid shirt. And cropped his beard. And drove a jeep. I was a very logical four-year-old.
It wasn’t long before my logical self grew out of Santa and discovered that “Dad taking him my wish list” was my Mom’s creative way of saying that Dad had gone Christmas shopping, and that the nights I’d heard jingle bells on the roof were my Dad stomping around, not Jolly Old St. Nick. But it didn’t change the magic for me. In fact, it increased it. I mean, my Dad got up on our roof and walked around with jingle bells. Now THAT’S some magic.
And I never experienced a traumatic transition from Christmas being about Santa to it being about Baby Jesus. Smooth as butter for this young mind to learn about “the real Old St. Nick” and the Jesus he worshiped. Because see, Santa wasn’t the magic part to me. My Mom and Dad were the magic part. Guys, my Dad KNEW SANTA. Magic. My Mom fed my imagination. Magic. Jingle Bells on a rooftop were even more magical knowing they belonged to my Dad instead of some guy with a white beard.
And now, thirty years after that little girl’s bath-time, with the bubbles and the splashing and the giggles all on-call for my wistful moments, my eyes still twinkle at the thought of my Mom and Dad knowing magic. In fact, thirty years later, I need to remember that magic. I became a really serious kid as I became a responsible big sister, and I didn’t exactly choose a magic-filled career. But there are moments and places that capture it for me and take me right back to that four-year-old self. Right back to a place where anything can happen, where the world is wide and full and your Dad knows Santa. Disneyland has my number – they get me every time when they launch faux-snow right after the Christmas-melody of fireworks. My favorite littles get me when they wrap their arms around my neck and whisper “I wuv you.” My husband gets me every time he grabs my soap-covered hands and spins me for a dance in our kitchen. New horizons get me. The deep ocean gets me. Stories of redemption get me. In those moments, magic grabs me and shakes me and says “This life is full of me! Look around and see me – I’m everywhere!” And I know it’s true – magic fills this place we call home. But it’s not the magic of flying reindeer or a bowl full of jelly. It’s the magic of the people that help us imagine. That open our hearts and our minds to what could be. To create with what can’t be seen.
Magic is waiting – it’s waiting for me to close my eyes and go back to a bubble-filled bath time. And it’s waiting for me to open my eyes and see what’s right in front of me. If we’re wiling to look, we’ll find it behind and ahead and inside. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll even be lucky enough to bring Magic to someone else’s story, whether it’s by strapping jingle bells on our boots or opening their heart to a new, quiet truth. But he
re’s the thing about Magic: It can’t be sold but it can be treasured. It can’t be buried but it can be lost. It can’t be bought but it can be created. You can’t taste it or see it or hold it – you have to experience it, and no one can do that for you. But be ready, because it can sneak up on you in the unlikeliest of places – even in the whispy memories of suds and bubbles. Or in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
Merry Christmas – may it be magical.