As a working mom, it’s challenging to stay on top of the news. By the time dinner and clean up and PJs and teeth-brushing and tucking in are finished, there’s little time or energy to catch up on the day’s headlines. When I do make a concerted effort to tune in, the bombardment of depressing headlines: from murders to kidnappings to protests to political chest-thumping make me question whether ignorance may be a hec of a lot more blissful.
Sadly, outside of the stolen glances at HuffPo, a major source of news for me comes on my usual morning elevator ride up to work. There on the little screen in the corner, I get bite-sized bits of info on top news, trending topics and pop culture.
One day a few weeks ago, my bleary-eyed ride to the 20th floor was interrupted by a very disturbing headline: “Town Cancels Santa due to Recession.”
WTF. My heart sunk. The elevator doors opened and I slunk out of the elevator with a nagging feeling that I couldn’t shake. Could it be true that the sad state of affairs in our country had led to this: canceling Santa Claus?
I hopped online to check out the blasphemous assertion. There it was on Bloomberg clear as day: “Santa Gets Scarcer as Cash-Strapped U.S. Cities Cancel Parades.” From coast to coast, California to Pennsylvania, cities are cutting their Christmas festivities based on budget cuts. What’s next, I thought. Occupy North Pole?!
As my friends and colleagues know, the recession we’re in—and the egregious behavior on Wall Street that got us here—enrages me. But this news elicited a different reaction: profound sadness. What kind of world will our kids grow up in? What hope do we have to offer them? My sadness wasn’t just about Santa, but about what he represents: optimism, goodness—in a word: magic.
One of our favorite holiday traditions in the city revolves around old St. Nick. Every year around this time, we go down to 900 North Michigan to see “the Real Santa.” At the risk of making the line exponentially longer, I will share the tip that this is not your typical Mall Santa. His cheeks are rosy, his red suit more luxurious than a Snuggie, his beard wistfully white and his eyes, those eyes have an unmistakable twinkle. My kids are convinced—and at times even I am—that this is the real deal. We take the escalator up to the third floor, and they wait in line, fidgeting, nervous, anxious, hopeful, bashful, running the year’s highlights in their heads to make sure they were “not naughty, but nice.” It’s a simple encounter that sticks with them, a magical moment that lingers long after we have left.
In a few years, I know that their belief will dissipate. That as they get older, reality will set in. The wonder in their eyes will be replaced by wry knowing smiles: that “Santa’s just a man in a suit” and “the Easter Bunny is really you hiding eggs around the house!” But given all that’s wrong in the world right now, we owe it to ourselves—and our kids—to keep the magic alive a little bit longer.
There’s plenty of time to be smacked in the face by reality. We as grown ups are weary, jaded and probably have been beaten down far too often in these harsh economic times. But it’s the magic that starts when we’re young, and hopefully lives on in our hearts long after, that gets us through. So long live Santa Claus!