Christmas is around the corner. Probably that is why the Divine Mother thought of giving me a break from writing on Her name. She’d rather I reflect on the merriment that Christmas brings every year negating the biting chill of the winter season. Her wish is my command. So here I am taking a stroll down the alleys of nostalgia, laden with fond childhood memories woven around this beautiful festival.
My father had made this a thumb rule that our early education must be completed in convent school. Since he was in a transferrable job, every two years we saw a new school, a new convent and a new church. What seemed a common thread amidst all these was the culture which made me and my brother aware about Christianity and Christmas. There was a lot of pre buzz in our schools around the holy day which found expression through decorations, carol practice, carnival planning and a lot more. The most loveable aspect though for me and my brother was the thought of Santa visiting us. It wasn’t really a thought. It was a belief held strongly. There was no question about it. After all, Santa was our first angel. We used to come home carrying all the excitement that was prolific in the four walls of our school.
Our boundless exhilaration was met with full support at home too. The domestic helpers used to hunt with us the right kind of tree to decorate. Our mother used to provide money for the decoration stuff that was fished from the market. The lighting needed to be in place, so the electrician used to be summoned. Every year we wanted everything to be perfect for Santa. Santa never disappointed us. We changed cities, schools but He was there everytime, every Christmas, bringing us the choicest dainties on the eve, that we discovered every morning. Each discovery added to our cheer. The joy in our hearts was limitless. I used to wonder also at times, how does Santa know we are now in a different city? How does he locate us everytime? I asked my Dad too. He just smiled and said, “He knows.”
One such Christmas eve, I remember I was in grade 8 at that time, I was lying in my bed, wrapped in the warmth of blankets, trying to sleep. I do not know why sleep was elusive that night. Was I too excited that it took a toll on my sleep? Maybe! So I just lay quietly. After some time I heard some sound. It was as if someone was in the room. Whoever it was, there were clear sounds of stuff in the room being moved. My heart took a leap. “Santa!!! It has to be Him. What do I do now? Shall I take a sneak peek? Shall I try waking up my brother? Is it just my imagination?” A multitude of thoughts kept running my mind. The sounds were still there. I finally decided to have a look by just removing my blanket a little. This was a lifetime chance to meet Santa and I was not ready t let it pass. I looked.
The peek that I took shook me to the core. My jaws dropped. My heart sank. My eyes welled up. I still lay in silence though. I saw my Dad moving around the room, hiding things here and there, striving to make as less sound as possible. Seeing him there gave birth to another barrage of questions in my mind. Was it all a lie? Was it ‘him’ every time? Or just this time Santa could not come, that is why Papa did it for Him? These and many other pop ups made sure I stay awake for the rest of the night. In the morning, my brother was jumping and asking me to go hunting for our stuff. I did not want to do it. He continued to plead so I told him okay and followed him. He kept looking for candies, chocolates money and I just tried to smile whenever he showed me up a new find. My heart was screaming but I didn’t want to say anything to him. I thought he still ‘believes’. Why take away his belief from him? My Dad too asked why am I not looking for things. I did not look him the eye and just said I do not feel like. I felt like my innocence has been taken away while my brother was still naïve. That Christmas I stopped believing!
Years after now when I look back I see it completely in different light. Now that I am myself a mother of a seven years old, Christmas has again started ringing bells. Wasn’t my Dad my secret Santa always? The one who believed with us, the one who made sure our belief sees fruition every year. He took care of our joy woven around this time of the year. He had enough respect for our sentiments and our emotions. And I respect him for that, I love him for that. Having said that, I still wonder why once grown up we stop believing? Isn’t believing in fairy tales a good thing? They are all pregnant with wisdom on how this life has to be lived. Why growing up makes us disbelieve all that wisdom and makes us believe that ‘things don’t work out like that’. While I continue to wonder at these questions, this Christmas I wish to gift my son the ability to believe. I wish that he continues to fancy how Santa actually looks. I wish he continues to fly high with his wings of imagination and innocence. I wish him and everyone a really Merry Christmas!