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Editorial Santa’s back

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

His name is Gerard and he is 7 1/2. He is in the second grade. He smiles a lot. In every way his development — intellectually, emotionally, physically — is on target for a boy his age. Well, actually, make that in almost every way. You see, he still believes in Santa Claus.

For a month now his mother and I have expected him to announce at any time, "I know who Santa Claus is; he’s you and Mommy." That, after all, is what his sister and brothers said on the Christmas after each turned 7. It is the age when I stopped believing.

It is hard for us, his parents, to fathom how our youngest can still be in Santa’s thrall. Kids today grow up so fast. They are continually bombarded with messages on TV, over the internet, through a seemingly endless parade of video games. Certainly he must have heard from somewhere that there is no Santa. Unless, of course, that particular myth-shattering message got lost in all that sensory overload. Or maybe it’s because a little old man, decidedly low tech despite being lively and quick, had simply snuggled too deeply into one child’s imagination to be evicted by so much disposable hype.

That Gerard didn’t learn it from his friends or from older kids in the neighborhood is also remarkable, though we have never for a moment thought he would find out from his siblings, who are far too protective of him to ever let such blasphemy slip out. His father, however, is another story.

I came home from work one night and announced to my wife, Diane, that I had no luck finding the drum set Gerard wants for Christmas. He was nearby.

"Drums?" he shouted.

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"Dr-r-r-rums," I stuttered, taken aback. "Not the kind you play," I went on, still searching. "A movie. You know, ‘Drums Along the Mohawk.’ Mommy and daddy wanted to watch it. It wasn’t at the video store. I wouldn’t know anything about the kind of drums you play. That’s between you and Santa."

His brother Peter, two months shy of 13 but going on 21, let me babble on, then smirked and said, "Smooth, Pops."

On Saturday, we went for our tree at a local tree farm. It was just me and Gerard this year. Amid acres upon acres of evergreens, he hopped off the haywagon and made a beeline for the first row. About 20 feet down the lane he halted suddenly and pronounced that he had found the perfect tree. And sure enough, it was. The trees close in around it must have hidden its beauty from other tree hunters, who, besides, probably were only too eager to scurry deeper into the farm in their search for perfection. Together we cut it down, loaded it onto the wagon, and started back for some hot cider. On the way, we gazed down over distant fields awash with people. I couldn’t help myself. "How do you suppose Santa manages to go to everyone’s house in one night?" I asked. He didn’t hesitate. "Time zones," he said.

Gerard will get his drums from Santa this year. Next year, his gifts will likely come from another source. For any parent, watching a youngest child grow up and little by little shed the layers of innocence is a bittersweet experience. But for our family, on this last Christmas of the millennium, it is also a richly rewarding one. Gerard, thanks for your gift to us — one last, unexpected visit from Santa Claus.

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