I don't think I've made it much of a secret that my childhood was less than desirable. It was downright awful most of the time. And so Christmas got piled into that awfulness. Most Christmases ended in screaming and shouting following just a few moments of feigned happiness. There were no traditions. There were no exceptions. It was open gifts, then business as usual. And many Christmases, churches, that we didn't dare step into, stopped by the week before to drop off gifts some very caring person decided to bestow upon us. Our other gifts were courtesy of a check written by my grandmother that she gave each year to my mother to ensure the kids even got a Christmas. Things were different, of course, when I lived with my grandparents, but I could count those times on one hand.
And so, I didn't grow up to be an adult that remained (or ever was) enamored with Christmas. I actually could have cared less about the holiday. I understand that I should've cared at least for what it all stands for, but it was just another example I could use for all the questioning I did throughout college and after and still do regarding God, Jesus, and the existence of Christianity. My husband, the agnostic, on the other hand, sees Christmas as a wonderful time filled with joy and family and happiness. He loves Christmas. His life was much different than mine.
Once we had Ethan, I began to see Christmas in a new light. For one, I was beginning to come back around full circle in my quest for the truth. I may not be all the way around, but I'm getting there. For two, I had a child that I could celebrate the holidays with. Santa became real again and gift-buying became special. Each year has become more magical, and I have Ethan to thank.
This year, I was able to see the magic in his eyes. When he watched the North Pole video I made, he truly believed Santa was speaking solely to him. He was amazed, and I could see that amazement shining in his eyes and speaking through his features. When he would talk about being a nice boy or a naughty boy, he knew and believed that Santa was watching him and everyone else in the world. I marveled at such a suspension of disbelief. And on Christmas Eve, when we began our tradition of reading and watching The Polar Express, I was delighted by his thrilled expressions of the North Pole.
Kids are special for a thousand different reasons, but this year, this season, I fully understand how a child can make you young again. As I watch his features and feel his body tense in anticipation while watching The Polar Express or seeing the video of Santa talking to him. Or when I see his eyes light up and widen upon seeing Santa's gifts, I find myself getting goosebumps. Because through him, I can feel what it's like to believe so wholeheartedly in something that has no proof other than someone saying it's so. I can remember what it's like to follow blindly with no question into a magical world that brings joy and excitement and anticipation so great it's almost bursting through your chest. I can remember for a moment what it feels like to carry that happiness with me before the world got jaded and before my reality became what it was. It's an amazing thing to see through the eyes of your own child the simplicity that life can be.
I may not have had those moments long when I was a child. My life became jaded too fast. But for Ethan and for the next, I have the opportunity to ensure that simplicity and innocence stay with them for as long as it's supposed to. And while they do have it, I know that each year, I, too, will be blessed with a suspension of disbelief.