In an attempt to reason with Santa this year, my 8-year-old grandson Gage wrote him a letter. Here is his Christmas list exactly as he wrote it:
"Santa You are so nice because you give everyone thats good presents. bad people get coal. Our family present might be an Xbox 360! I hope I get one. I also want a 3DS. I might get one for my B-day/birthday. but I am So happy! I have always wanted to see you. but I have a quisten. (I spelled that wrong.) is Redof the Red nosed Raindeer Real? Yes or No? Circle wich one. Well merry chirmas! and good luck. from gage.
PS. Write if my mom or Dad got me a membership for club penguin. Circle wich one. Yep Nope.
PSS. To know if you are real please (if you can) wake me up so I can see you. and if Redof is Real can I see him?
PSSS. one elf to."
As juvenile as the letter reads, it's actually an adult attempt to use logic on a completely fantastical proposition. It's also much better than I managed at his age.
I wrote several childhood letters to Santa, only one of which survives. I penned this list of Christmas demands when I was 7.
"Dear Santa. This is Bobby. I want a slingshot and a gun that shoots corks and a bow and 100 arrows and a turtle and a reel hatchet. Do not bring me any more pajamas. love Bobby. P.S. Are you reel? PSS what does Jesis look like?"
This is not as bad as the Christmas operational plan I wrote when I was 9, spelling out in detail Santa's "accidental" fall from our roof and subsequent burial in the backyard.
I was after that sack of presents. Why ask for a few things when you can keep everything? It would have worked, too, but I fell asleep.
Gage's letter gives me an idea. OK, maybe not. It would probably freak him out if Sonny put on a Santa suit and white beard, then snuck into Gage's bedroom in the middle of the night.
There's the risk of Gage having a Christmas seizure if he woke to find Santa leaning over him in the dark. No telling how long he would believe after that.
Also, even if he didn't faint from shock, Gage is smart enough to insist on seeing "Redof" and the elf. Those might be a little harder to come by.
All of this really begs the question about a child's belief in Santa. Some parents tell their kids he isn't real. Others say he is. Some kids figure it out on their own.
I didn't. I hung onto the magical belief as long as possible. The thought of being able to influence Santa with cookies and obsequious drivel appealed to me. He was a busy guy. He had to be easier to fool than the old man.
Eventually I was told the truth against my will. I felt robbed and bereft of hope. The magic was sucked out of life. Eleven years old and I was already considering a drinking problem.
Even then it took another couple of years before I gave up completely and accepted grim reality. The hope of being able to influence the imponderable doesn't fade easily.
I've decided to let things be. Gage can figure out Santa on his own. The kid is going to be my age soon enough. He'll need the practice dealing with life's other "Santas."
There are lots of great mysterious things over which a guy is required to have total faith and no real say government, career, church, marriage, TV programming, politicsâ¦.
Hey, it's a big list.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.