LIFE SPOILER ALERT: The following contains sensitive information that should not be viewed by young children or young-at-heart folks of all ages who do not wish to subject themselves to the harsh and terrible realities of adulthood.
As I type this, we are just returning home from the annual Tillman’s Corner Christmas parade, featuring the lovely Alabama Pecan Queen as well as the grand marshal of the parade, the beloved Uncle Henry. Aside from an obnoxious group of proudly unapologetic racists standing near me loudly discussing “the problem with the world today” in the presence of laughing children in Santa hats, it was a lovely and festive occasion.
I loved seeing so many excited kids jumping up and down and squealing for treats, but the most amusing part was hearing more people (including Santa himself) yell “Roll Tide” than “Merry Christmas.” Man, it must be tough to be an Auburn fan. Even Santa is against you. (Just kidding, guys. Chin up.)
The Christmas parade is always a fun occasion shared with neighbors and local businesses way out in my neck of the city, but it didn’t take long to sorely regret my choice of attire for the morning event. We were running a little late and didn’t leave the house until we heard the sound of drums from the approaching high school band, and I threw on a sweatshirt on my way out the door to jog the half mile to a good spot to watch the parade. Seconds later I was covered in sweat and felt my internal organs slowly roasting just in time for an early Christmas dinner.
I realize it’s nothing new to hear a Mobilian complain about running the air conditioner through the Christmas season, but this year I have a little something extra invested in Jack Frost’s return. My sweet little boy has communicated his number-one wish from Santa this year is to experience his very first White Christmas. And just to be clear, no, we will not be making a pilgrimage to the North this holiday season. We will be celebrating Christmas at our own home as well as my mother’s house, just a couple hundred yards from the arctic seas of good ole Mobile Bay.
To be fair, like quite a few 8-year-old boys this year, the “real” number-one thing on his Christmas list was tickets to opening night of the new “Star Wars” movie. However, since the movie premieres a week before Christmas and his fantasy involves going with a group of friends and wearing a carefully constructed homemade costume, it wasn’t really something Santa could keep for a Christmas Day surprise.
He’s been busy working on his costume for weeks now and the task has helped distract him from the agony of waiting for Christmas, but he is very excited to see what other amazing treasures Santa might offer. Of course he has mentioned LEGO and “Star Wars” merchandise and plenty of other stuff typically treasured by young boys, but for his biggest wish he thought he’d give Santa an extra-special challenge this year. The boy wants actual snow on the ground. As in, enough to build a snowman. On Christmas morning. In Mobile. Good luck, St. Nick!
See, the boy has been going through a bit of a struggle lately, and he’s starting to feel pretty defensive about his belief in Santa Claus. He’s been hearing rumors at school questioning the jolly old elf’s existence and there’s a fairly scandalous conspiracy theory going around third grade suggesting it’s all a farce created by adults to persuade children to behave. In fact, several kids in his class have been trying to convince him that it’s his parents who secretly buy all those toys and “Dr. Who” pajamas (Shhhh … don’t tell him about the PJs. He’s gonna FREAK!)
Casual research suggests Benji may be the outlier in this scenario, and according to the internet only 25 percent of kids his age still believe in Santa. My daughter was over it by age 5 (along with most of her friends) and by now it’s been over six years since she started covertly rolling her eyes when her little brother writes his annual letter to Santa. I was absolutely certain 2014 would be Ben’s last year to embrace the magic, but at 8 and a half, he’s still holding strong.
I have no clue how such an incredibly bright and observant kid hasn’t managed to connect all those terrible dots that will destroy his childhood faith forever, but I absolutely love it and will continue to enjoy every second of his amazingly sweet innocence until I no longer have a choice. You know, sometimes I even suspect he’s intentionally “choosing” not to notice, either for his own benefit or mine, in sort of a reverse Christmas white lie.
At any rate, Benji claims his friends are nuts for not believing in Santa and after recently learning about Krampus, he is more than a little concerned for their well-being and determined to prove them wrong. In a show of faith, he has decided to test Santa’s existence by making a heartfelt plea to him for something he knows his parents can’t give him. And now, sadly, his childhood faith is riding on whether it snows in Mobile on Christmas.
Sorry, kid. I really hate to see it end like this, but I guess we all have to learn sometime that we can’t have everything we want. Besides, I never got my stupid pony and I lived to complain about it.
On second thought, though, it’s still kind of early in the month, and our weather is known for being full of surprises. And I would so love a White Christmas myself! Wouldn’t you? Maybe Ben is onto something. Maybe life is just a lot more fun when you choose to believe in magic.