When I was nine, I found out the "truth" about Santa. I can remember walking home with a friend; she looked at me curiously and said, "Do you know about Santa?"
Fear struck at my heart as anxiety pulsed throughout my body. "What happened to him? Is he okay?" Images of a mutli-sleigh collisions ran through my head, as tears welled up in my eyes.
When I came home that night, my mom sat me down at the kitchen table and unloaded all sorts of truths...not just about Santa, but his cohorts --the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
I sat stunned and frozen at that kitchen table.
Before that moment, Christmas had been about magic and presents and happiness -- and Santa. And with my new knowledge, I suddenly didn't know what Christmas meant anymore. I no longer knew what to believe.
I laid in my bed that night and envisioned a Christmas without Christmas lists and visits to the Santa at the mall. A Christmas without placing cookies out for Santa to eat. A Christmas without magic. I cried myself to sleep.
At school the following day, a classmate perpetually pestered me about Santa. "Ali, I bet you think Santa is real, right?!" He nudged his friends and laughed --waiting for me to say "yes" so he could laugh some more. "You believe in Santa, don't you?" He laughed louder.
And even though my mom's words rang in my ears, even though I knew the truth about it all, I still answered, "yes." Because, deep down inside, I knew that somewhere, some part of the Santa story had to have truth to it. I had to have something to believe in.
Recently, Laila, my seven year old, has begun to question many things, ranging from where babies come from to the validity of the Easter Bunny. I know that at some point, it is inevitable that the Santa question will come up as well.
So this year, we started a new tradition; we adopted a family for Christmas. Laila helped me gather presents for our family. We giggled together about how fun it was to be Santa --to give to someone else, to be a part of the magic of Christmas.
And once the presents were wrapped, Laila looked at me and said, "This is the best part of Christmas."
"Wrapping gifts?" I asked.
"Nope," she replied, "knowing we are going to make someone else happy is the best part of Christmas."
"I couldn't agree more," I said.
I hope that as the years go by and our tradition of adopting a family at Christmas continues, my girls will continue to believe --to believe that there is magic in giving, to believe in the beauty of kindness, to believe that the spirit of Santa lives in each of us.
Because, I believe, and that's the truth.