On a dark and frigid winter night, my dad slipped out the back door of our family home. The temperature hovered near freezing, but the air was damp with small flakes of light snow. Not enough of the white stuff to push piles against the curb, but instead a dusting that froze as it landed on cold pavement. My father walked with the careful butt-clenched gait that all Midwesterners know well. It’s an adaptation that isn’t taught, but instead learned through tailbone-bruising falls that are inevitable when you try to take full, hurried steps on snow and ice. His destination was the neighbor’s garage across the street, and as dad shuffled in that direction, he knew he was working within a limited timeframe. He was determined to accomplish his task, under the cover of darkness, without being seen or heard. He had to infiltrate the garage, gather his goods and deposit them in the expected location with silent precision. To get caught would be catastrophic, at least to his children. The routine was not new to dad. He had been making this same trek, on this same night, every year for at least a decade. The neighbors were happy to oblige. Three spinster sisters lived in the home across the street with their elderly father. Their last name was Lamp, but I remember we called the patriarch Mr. Ump. I guess one of us had trouble enunciating an “L.”So there, in the darkness, on this frosty Christmas Eve, my dad crossed the threshold of the Lamp’s garage door and gathered his box. A big box. Big enough to hold an oven or a recliner, or on this night, just the right-sized box to hold Santa’s gifts for four young children.
My dad was of average size, and probably average strength, but on this night, given this task, his strength and maneuverability were unmatched because he carried precious cargo in his arms. With biceps wrapped tight on either side of the heavy, cardboard container, and his view obstructed by both the box and the night, he headed back the way he had come. He must have felt relief that he made it out of the dark garage and down Mr. Ump’s sloped driveway without missing a step. It wasn’t until he got to the street that he began to lose control. Our home on North Adams Street wasn’t necessarily built on a hill. Instead I’d call it a gentle grade, sloping from north to south, but on this night, dampness and freezing temperatures partnered underfoot to create a perfect slip and slide combination. My dad, with the big box held tight, and with limited sight, slid right past our house, down the street, into the night.
My mom loves to tell this story. My parents laughed about that night for years after. Somehow, dad never fell. He didn’t drop the box. Once he stopped sliding and regained his footing, he made it back to our house where he deposited the toys on our front porch, with well-practiced skill. He slipped back into the house and we kids were oblivious to his perilous adventure until years later. All I knew was on Christmas Eve we waited impatiently in the house, skillfully distracted by our mother, while dad carried out his Christmas duty. Santa came! Every year on Christmas Eve, Santa silently dropped a big, cardboard box on our front porch, and no matter how vigilantly we kept watch, we never saw him do it.
I believed. I believed so strongly in the magic of Santa Claus that when my parents came clean I argued with them. “Not true!” I cried. Santa came year after year, while we were all awake! The fact that he was able to deliver gifts without being seen was because Santa had special powers. He could make reindeer fly! He carried gifts for all the world’s children in a miniature sleigh, on a single night. You didn’t have to have a fireplace and a chimney for him to do his job. Santa would find a way, and he’d do it so quickly and so quietly that we could never catch him in the act. My belief was so strong, and so deeply ingrained, that I believed in my own belief over the word of my parents. And I carried that belief long past the age of “should know better.” When my friends would talk about the little kids who were still under the impression of Santa, I would pretend to be wise to the reality of it all, but inside I was holding fast to the magic story of the man in the red suit. A strong belief is like that. We don’t always have to see something to believe it. Instead, if we believe in something with enough conviction, it becomes what we see.
I eventually gave up on the notion of Santa, and spent several years a little miffed that the magic was gone, until I realized that it’s not. The magic remains as long as I believe that it does. The magic doesn’t exist because of a jolly old elf. The magic exists because we create it, and we create it because we are believers. My dad did more than carry out a covert mission on Christmas Eve. He perpetuated a belief. He carried on a tradition. And when he revealed the truth, and retired his role as Santa, he passed to his children the responsibility of believing their own beliefs, and creating their own magic.
What is important enough to believe with your whole heart? What qualities, or attitudes or landscapes or knowledge will be held so dear to you that you will be able to envision them, and retain them, even when others say they don’t exist? Will you be able to stand firm in your conviction when you are questioned, ridiculed or mocked for your beliefs?
Whether they are rooted in spirituality, or heritage, or history or the future, know that your beliefs are your own. What you believe in your heart is what you will see in your daily life.
This lesson I learned from my parents, by first believing in a plump, little man in a red suit. I didn’t have to meet Santa to experience the magic, I only had to believe in his existence.
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.