Thursday, December 1, 2011

a glimmer

There were a few years when the three older children knew
that Christmas held magic
that the lights from the tree also lit a spark within them
that nutcrackers (especially the Viking nutcracker) came to life while you slept
that John Denver and The Muppets sang the best renditions of favorite Christmas songs
that all was bright, all was calm

There were a few years when all three of the older ones
thrilled at the jingle of a bell outside their window on Christmas eve
which let them know Santa was near
and it was time to go to sleep
or else he would skip their house completely.
And, they would claim they stayed up all night waiting for him.
But he came anyway

There was the year when the Spoiler-
sandwiched between my boys on a ride home from school-
whispered in first born son’s ear
‘I have a secret only grown ups know.’
Although we love the child who blew the whistle on Christmas,
when recalling that moment- we say her name as if we’ve eaten lemons.
First born son was ripe and ready
to be plucked from the tree of ‘all-believing.’
But his younger brother, only six, fell hard
when the Spoiler pulled the rug out from beneath him.
And no amount of back pedaling
could  undo the damage to his faith.

My heart hurt
as I watched him question
everything and everyone
What is really real?

There were many years after the boys had stopped believing
that they remained supremely respectful
of their younger sister’s steadfast trust in all things Christmas,
where they all still found enchantments in raising the tree
and arranging the nutcrackers on the mantel.
They spoke of Santa as if the 'secret only grown ups know' had never been uncloaked.
They created their own tradition, the sibling gift exchange-
designating the morning of each Christmas eve
to give each other gifts they bought with their own savings.
Early morning gift trades eased the agony of Christmas anticipation
with which their sister was so clearly afflicted.

This year the sister’s faith began to waver
as she tried to shake off the chatter of school mates
who had crossed over to the other side.
She, like her oldest brother, was ready
although it stung a bit more when she heard the words from her mothers lips
which answered the questions running through her mind
and confirmed the worst for her-
she was growing up.
And this holiday season, her first since letting go of her Christmas dreams,
is peppered with a hint of bitterness
as she 'bah hum bugs' every image of Santa that passes before her eyes.

This is the first year where all three of the older children are
old enough to choose where their Christmas magic comes from.
This is the year when the baby builds a new vocabulary
drawing from the living room-
bedecked in holiday regalia and transformed into a Christmas tableau:
Charlie Brown
Each song
each adornment
each story
a stepping stone,
a new hook on the tree of 'all-believing.'

This is the year when mother and father are
stitched between those children who think they understand-
and, yet are unsure of what expectations to hold for the holiday season-
and the child who is just learning
but none-the-less, marvels each day
at each new introduction
and accepts it all as magic.
We grow backwards,
once we know.
We work harder for the magic to keep its dominion over the season.
We flip the lights on the tree-
the memory of Christmases past illuminates their eyes.
And, spark begins to glimmer again.


  1. Beautiful.....capturing the essence of childhood's changes and stages of learning about Christmas. I am still longing for that excitement we all once had and yet some of it continues with the little ones that surround us. The magic for me continues in so many memories and the new ones we create as a family together. Thank you for sharing your family with us! xox

  2. Love the picture of #2 son with the nutcracker!

  3. wow, amy, this is super powerful. and so sad to me. i still perfectly remember the moment that the magic was stolen from me. (check out line at Bells Bazaar, by my step-brother). you should submit this somewhere, please. i love it.

  4. Thank you auntie! And, thank you, Corrie! Your responses to this piece mean so much to me. Corrie, I am so sad that you were robbed of the magic at Bells Bazaar:-( It is one thing to come into the understanding on your own, and another entirely to have it thrust upon you. Children are only young for such a brief amount of time. There is no sense in robbing them of magic prematurely. Grown up life has a way of doing that on its own:-( I don't know where I would submit this. I'm at a stage where I am really feeling the pull- as I am sure you are familiar with- where I want to move forward with my writing. I just don't know how.

  5. Well said! I have no believers anymore, BUT somehow the magic of Christmas is even better now.

  6. This made me tear up. I have two excited believers right now. I am starting to dread The Conversation. I don't remember learning the truth. I'm sure my older sister must have told me. I *do* remember feeling horrified and betrayed when I found out all the crap they fed me about the first Thanksgiving, and how we interacted with the native population was sugar coated. Maybe because the idea of Santa defies reason and is easier to accept, and the reality of how terrible man can be to others is a sad lesson to wrap your young mind around?