I took my 8-year-old to the mall on Friday to see Santa. We stood in line for the obligatory 20 minutes, and I even shelled out the $15 they wanted for the little picture. I did it because my heart was being pulled by a million sappy heart strings. I held his hand in line and felt a combination of joy at his innocent excitement, and mourning at the loss that I know is going to come - probably by next year, maybe not until the next, of that Christmas wonder he was feeling.
While we stood in line, a little boy behind us decided to announce loudly that his little sister should be told there isn't a Santa by the time she's ten, since that's when he found out. I planted myself between that boy and mine, like a shield. He repeated his announcement three or four times before the mother came out of her stupor long enough to realize what her young charge was saying. She quietly chided him, and I wondered what effect, if any, his declaration would have on my son. Sure enough, with in a couple of minutes he asked me if I believe in Santa. "Of course I do," I said. "Yeah," he agreed, "parents would have to know. Since there are presents under the tree that they don't buy." And then of course I felt guilty. And sad. It's starting...the logic...it won't be long now.
But apparantly I've got a little more time. The next day, as we were driving in the car, he told me that when he grows up he wants to be Santa. I asked him how come, and he said: "For one thing, I believe in him. For another, he gets to travel all over the world. Plus his elves do all the work for him, he just sits around and eats cookies and hot chocolate all day. Besides, he gets to live forever."
"That does sound like a pretty sweet gig," I told him, "if you can get it."