Vincenzo, like I said, is growing up. I think. Or maybe he’s not. Vincenzo may or may not be growing up.
This Tuesday, two big little things happened in his life. One was that I let him ride his bike somewhere without me. His friend Alex, who lives a couple blocks away, wanted to ride down to the school to play basketball and when V asked me if he could go I heard myself saying, “Well…I guess so?”
He does have 11 years of me by his side, saying, “Stop, look, and listen. No, really look this time. Now tell me everything you hear right now. Wait, look again. Any cars? No? Okay, now we can cross.”
I was going for a walk anyway, so I decided to walk Vincenzo up to Alex’s house, and that’s where the second growing up thing happened.
I decided to have “the talk” with V.
You know, about Santa.
V is 11. He’s in the fifth grade. My parents told me about Santa in the second grade and it was crushing. I am still traumatized by the news even to this day—that everything magical is not real.
I wasn’t sure whether or not V still believed in Santa. He’s said a thing or two to me that made me think he knew and was playing along, but I couldn’t tell. This is the boy who spends 95% of his free time reading books about dragons and wizards, magical eggs and mythical worlds, so I don’t think there’s a hard line between reality and fantasy for him anyway.
So on the way to Alex’s house, I said, “Vincenzo, about Santa…”
He looked at me with his green owl eyes and said, “About Santa…”
I tried again. “About Santa…”
He repeated, “About Santa…”
I said, “I’ve heard you and your friends talking about whether or not Santa is real. What are your thoughts on the matter?”
Vincenzo told me the same thing I’ve heard him tell his friends: “I have no opinion on it.” I tried to get him to expand, but he remained completely opinionless.
So I threw my hands up in the air and did a little dance like I had just done something wonderful. I wished I had a handful of glitter to toss and I sung out, “It’s me, Vincenzo! I’m Santa Claus!!”
He didn’t have much reaction. I couldn’t physically see his soul being crushed or his world breaking apart. He just listened to me babble for a couple minutes on the topic, then said, “I wonder what Alex and I are going to do today?”
Then I realized there was something really important I still needed to tell Vincenzo. I said, “Vincenzo, about Santa…,” then I dropped to a whisper, “You can still believe in him if you want to.”
By then we were at Alex’s house, so V waved goodbye to me, hopped on his bike, and the two of them rode off down the street.
I stood on the street, feeling my own world break apart a little, but not in a scary way. It was just a small “poof,” like when someone blows all the seeds off a dandelion in one breath.
Poof, make a wish, pedal down the street, turn the corner, wait–mama loves you.
I went on my walk, questioning whether I should have told V at all or let him go on believing. I have a whole other blog post to write about my friend Holly, who never stopped believing in Santa even as an adult, and it was the most beautiful thing in the world. But Holly is gone now and I don’t think I can pull it off without her. I thought I’d feel relieved when I had told Vincenzo, but instead I just felt…weird.
Vincenzo came home later that evening. I was just sitting down to help Leo write his letter to Santa. Vincenzo saw us there and sat down next to us, helping himself to a piece of paper.
“I think I’ll write a letter to Santa, too.”
He still believes.
WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Balsamic glazed pearl onions
Anticipation, adrenaline, and excitement