“Of course there is, silly.”
The sigh of relief shared a humbling totality of trust. I said, “we can clear this up later.”
My almost-hard stare made him smile. One raised eyebrow was enough. Reassured, he bounced away and into a world of games, fun and noise.
Truth to tell
After lunch I settled, comfortable, in the battered old chair in my study. He came in, as I knew he would, climbed up the arm and settled against my chest.
He started to choke back sobs, but couldn’t constrain them. “There’s no Santa.” I swung him in front of me, a solid young five-and-a-half year old. His nose bubbled and tears washed down his cheeks. I opened my arms and he hugged me, burying his face on my shoulder.
“Alfie.” Alfie is his ten-year old brother. A great kid, mostly, but always on his wee brother’s case.
“Alfie. What does he know?” Sounding confident is a great trick—then prepare to defend your position.
“I knew he was wrong.” The brightness bubbled up. Grandad the hero. Yeah. Grandad the guy who’d better come up with a strong explanation. “He does exist, right Grandad.” His face came out of my sweater, doubtless leaving a soggy patch, but, hey, that’s what Grandfolks’ shoulders are for.
“Right, but not as the people on TV and in stores would have you think.”
Smelly old Santa
“You mean that smelly old Santa at the Supermarket isn’t a real Santa.” He giggled.
“He is and he isn’t.”
“Mum said he wasn’t much good.”
“And there are loads more every where you go.”
“I’ve been wondering about that.”
“They’re sort of pretend Santa’s.”
His eyebrows clenched slightly. Little furrows of concern. “Pretend Santas.”
“So, they’re not real?”
“Nope. Not real.”
“But Santa came last night. I got presents.”
“Of course you did.”
“Alfie says it’s Mum and Dad.”
“Mum and Dad looked guilty when I asked them.”
“So he doesn’t exist, Santa.” His little head went down and shook from side-to-side.
“Of course he does. But I can only tell you about it if you can keep a secret. Can you?”
“Like the hole in the wall?” (another story)
“Just like that.”
“That’s our secret, Grandad, I never told.”
“I know. That’s why I can trust you with the Santa Secret.”
The wee man was buzzing. “Tell me. Tell me.”
“Okay, okay, but just between us.”
“Out with it!” I heard echoes his mother (and imagined her pink cheeks when she spoke like that).
“Promise?” He nodded so hard I worried he might injure his neck.
“The first Santa died hundreds of years ago.”
“So, he isn’t real.”
“Do you want to hear my secret or don’t you?”
“What’s the point if he’s dead?”
“What he stands for isn’t dead.”
He stilled and I could see the wheels turning … “You mean like Grandma.” I must admit that kind of caught me. I couldn’t speak for a moment.
I blurted a few words “What are you thinking… wee man?”
“I remember her hugs and smiles. She kept secrets like you do.” His thoughtful little face looked up and saw the forty years of memories in my eyes. “Do you miss her.”
“What’s Grandma got to do with Santa?”
“When you think of her what comes to mind?”
“Cakes, fun and hugs.”
“Love, Grandad, she loves me.”
“Loves you?” I gazed into his eyes. Present tense.
“Yes, her love hasn’t stopped.”
“You already know Santa’s secret.”
His eyes lit up. “He’s like Grandma. His love hasn’t stopped?”
“And his pictures and stories?”
“Memories, so we don’t forget.”
He climbed off my knee and picked up her picture from my desk. A tear sneaked out from my eye. I managed to wipe it before he looked up. “Santa is real, Grandad. Like Grandma.”
“Just like Grandma.”
“And I got presents and things.”
“Who puts the gifts there if Santa is only a living memory?”
He shrieked out a laugh, hugging his sides, Grandma’s picture shaking with jollity. “Not me, I got the presents.” He handed me the photo and ran off.
One year, five months and eleven days since she passed. And still bringing her slice of light to the world. I reached for a tissue, blew my nose and dabbed my eyes. Through the wistfulness, I couldn’t help feeling truly happy. Not alone.
by Mac Logan