A bittersweet visit with Santa today at our annual adventure. Charlie started off by telling me "Mom? I think I'm too big to tell Santa what I want for Christmas. How about I just hang out and then get in the picture at the end?" (insert proverbial knife to Mom's heart...) I took it like a trooper and told him that was fine. Santa was magical as always and both he and Mrs. Claus had a lovely non-rushed chat with our younger two. He even performed his best Darth Vader imitation for Brian. As we started to leave, Santa took me aside and whispered "Tell your older son it's OK, and that I still believe in HIM.”
I read this on a friend’s Facebook wall this week and just melted. I got chills, then I teared up, and immediately wanted to share this story with everyone. I don’t have children of my own, or even nieces and nephews. Maybe that’s why the little story struck such a strong chord. Because I have no point of reference, someone else’s account can have unlimited value. My life has been filled with ‘Santas’ that believed in me - teachers and mentors, bosses, and especially parents. I’d never even considered that Jolly Old St Nick could believe in me too.
My little town of Joplin, Missouri has come a long way in the 26 years I’ve been away. But when I was a kid there wasn’t a lot going on; you went to the roller skating rink or you went to the mall. I was a terrible skater, so North Park Mall was my haven. Through the years, the mall took on many remodeling projects, so at Christmastime sometimes Santa was set up on one end in front of Montgomery Ward, or some years way down on the other end by JC Penney. My favorite place to see him set up was in the center of the mall in front of the old Newman’s. Newman’s was a fancy store and I always felt a little richer just walking past it.
Other than the candy cane we would get after sitting on his lap, visiting Santa at the mall wasn’t a big deal. I don’t even think our parents took us for pictures because they were probably too expensive at the time. My sister and I didn’t write letters to Santa asking for things, so there was no threat of coal in our stockings if we didn’t behave. There was a greater threat of discipline all year round from our dad that would put the dude in the red suit to shame.
Our sole Santa highlight was driving home after midnight mass and mom would say, ‘Let me go in first so I can plug up the tree.’ My dad, sister and I would dawdle in the car listening to Christmas carols on the radio or if it wasn’t too chilly, maybe we’d stand outside and look at the stars. Finally making our way inside, propped in front of the tree in front of all the wrapped presents would be Cyndi Lauper or Rick Springfield albums, some Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, a new pair of boots, or some Barbie paraphernalia to go with our homemade Barbie Dream-house hand built by our dad. It would be the special things that we wanted all year long but would have to wait until Christmas to receive.
I don't know when I stopped believing or when I admitted that I knew my mom put out the presents. I do know that my parents worked tirelessly to provide for my sister and me throughout the year, so it was a really big deal that they dug into even deeper pockets to gift us so generously at Christmas. It’s too bad that there wasn’t a man in a red suit to remove the burden of all that extra spending at the holidays.
I will be flying home to Joplin as this greets you in your inbox or on Facebook. I’m going to ask my mom to take me and my sister to sit on Santa’s lap and pose for a picture. I want to thank him for believing in me all these years whether I believed in him or not.
Because I don’t have kids of my own, I fall extra hard for the children of my friends. I had a little holiday gathering and put these two little elves to work to help me pass the treats.
I made chocolate candy cane hearts that were a bit of a fail. Every recipe I saw online used melted chocolate chips to fill the hearts. Well I thought I would be extra clever and win my guests over with chocolate ganache! They were pretty and the ganache was heavenly, but they were so messy to eat and not a great handheld treat at all. Ganache doesn’t harden, but the melted chips cool and take on solid form again. Lesson learned. Here's the link to how everyone else does it plus my chocolate ganache recipe. I might try them again for Valentine’s day! Stay tuned…
Happy holidays and may you all feel like kids again, believing in Santa and surrounded by the people you love.
- 18 oz (1 12 oz bag + one cup) semi sweet chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon salted butter, room temperature
- pinch of salt
- Place chips in a medium sized bowl. Bring cream just to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Pour over chips and add butter and salt. Whisk until chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Let cool until barely warm. This is a decadent and incredibly easy glaze for a chocolate cake.
- For the hearts, I filled a piping bag and flooded the hearts and then put them in the freezer until serving. They kept their shape perfectly, but the canes got sticky.