Blake stumbled into the family room, rubbing his eyes and not fully awake. Then Dillon came out and headed straight to the bathroom, oblivious to his little brother and the visitor sitting on the mantle. Once Blake's eyes adjusted to the morning light, he saw him, sitting next to a letter from the North Pole:
"What?" Blake said to himself. "Oh. my. goodness. How is that even possible?"
My husband and I stood back, hiding in the kitchen, trying not to laugh. Then Blake walked to the bathroom door and whispered loudly through it, "Dillon! Guess what?"
Dillon came out and mirrored his brother's surprise. "Elfie!" Dillon exclaimed, playing along. Blake has no idea that Dillon has crossed over to the other side. Blake doesn't know there is another side.
Just before Halloween, I told Dillon about Santa Claus. We'd been out shopping for costumes and running errands, and we'd decided to have lunch at Moe's.
"We should do this more often," he said, once again demonstrating how quickly he's growing. For the first three-and-a-half years of his life, before siblings, we spent a lot of one-on-one time together. And he was a stinker. A cute, exasperating, stinker. Lunch at Moe's (still one of his favorite places to eat) used to be so exhausting.
This time, he stood patiently in line, helped get drinks from the fountain and selected our seat. We sat across from one another, ate and talked. Finally I said, "So, you know how you've been asking about Santa Claus?"
His eyes got wide. Then he smiled and said, "I want to know if, when I grow up, do I have to put out the presents at night, or can I just go to sleep?"
I love this about him, how he's already concerned about what to do when he is an adult. "Yes," I said, "you do have to put out the presents." I watched his mouth drop, kind of like this:
Then I explained the tradition of Santa Claus. I muddled the history a bit, but the gist of my explanation was that by setting out "magical" presents on Christmas Eve, we keep the spirit of Santa Claus—the spirit of giving and wonder—alive.
"It's fun," I said. "And now you can be a part of that, and you can help with your brother and sister."
When I checked in to see how he was feeling about the news, he said he was a little sad. But ultimately he was okay with it because:
a) he's still going to get presents
b) he's still going to get presents
Then we had to have the quick reality check: Yes, this means parents are also the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, but I loved the movie Rise of Guardians because I do believe in guardian angels. And yes, God is real. And Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus, and I know it's confusing but that's just what it's like to live in America.
But he didn't seemed confused at all. He demonstrated that this weekend when the elf arrived, and he acted excited and surprised. He demonstrated that in church on Sunday, when he placed his arm around his little brother and whispered, "Here you go, put this check in offering plate when it comes by." It was the first time Blake sat through a church service instead of going to the nursery. Putting the check in the offering plate had been Dillon's job, and he seemed happy to show his little brother what to do.
My almost 8-year-old gets it. I'm not sure if he'll remember our lunch date and our talk, and if he does, how he'll recall our conversation. Will he be glad that I told him? Will he appreciate hearing it from me? Did I help him make the transition from believing to knowing, easier? I hope so, but I don't know.
But I know how I'll remember it. Magical. Bittersweet. Perfect.
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