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Laguna Observed

We’ll Always Love Santa

Last Friday, Hospitality Night came to Laguna yet once again.  I am always amazed at how fast Christmas comes round again. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!
So there we were, every citizen living in Laguna, especially those with children under 10, out and about, down on Forest, scarfing down tamales and homemade Christmas cookies, waiting for Santa to ride in and the pepper tree to light up.
It was a chilly evening.  I was really happy I’d decided to wear my long overcoat and the comfortable boots, the new mittens and the old scarf.  I needed every bit of the outerwear. Even after the tamales…okay, okay, I didn’t eat any tamales. But I held my own in the cookie department. And everyone knows the heat from a sugar rush!
I went with friends. I met more friends. And I shopped at DN Evans gorgeous boutique, where I bought a fabulous necklace (an early Christmas present, the kind I like to give to myself every year), and had a very happy Christmas tree kind of evening.
One of the people I was with was a 5-year-old boy.  A very intelligent child, very learned for his age. And, he believes in Santa Claus. We were parted early on, but I am reasonably sure he ended his evening sitting on the lap of Santa and earnestly telling him what he wanted for Christmas.
Which brought me back to my own son when he was 6 years old.
The month wasn’t Christmas, so I don’t know how the subject had even come up. But one afternoon, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my mother. We heard the school bus pull up. There was a wild dash up the driveway. The sliding glass door to the kitchen was slammed open with the strength of a grown man, and my son leapt in the door. His face was red. His eyes were black with shock, fury and fear. He slammed his little hand down on the table.  “Tell me the truth,” he shouted directly into my face. “Is Santa Claus real? Because I just bet Charles all my money that Santa Claus is too real.”
I’d never made an issue about Santa Claus. My children knew I bought their presents.  We talked about Santa in a lighthearted way. But frankly I’d never pretended Santa was an actual person who arrived on Christmas Eve. In fact I put their presents out early so we could all enjoy the beauty that is a Christmas tree surrounded by all sorts of wonderful packages.
So when my son shouted his question I was struck mute. My mother and I exchanged a quick glance. And that’s all it took. My son’s world suffered one of its first terrible breaks. “Oh no,” he cried out. Without another word, he ran out of the kitchen, up the stairs, and into his room. The slammed door echoed, and I’ll never forget the look of grief that had slammed into his face.
So, I love Santa. I do. Our children love Santa even more than that, obviously. But that moment of the shocking truth is coming for each and every child. I suppose it could be worse, but wouldn’t it be spectacular if Santa did one day show up for real? And everyone was spared from ever losing him again?

Ruth Yunker is a writer and humorist and author of “Me, Myself and Paris.”

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