Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday memories

(1995) Illusion! Epiphany! Proclamation!
Janet Taylor-Perry
Illusion—a false idea or conception
Epiphany—a moment of sudden intuitive understanding; a flash of insight
Proclamation—a public announcement
What do you do when not once, but twice, one of your three-year-olds makes a proclamation to shatter other children’s illusions after an epiphany regarding Santa Claus? You laugh; otherwise, you’ll cry.
Both my eldest son and my only daughter provided me with two memorable Christmas experiences by such actions.
When my eldest son (I have four.) was three, his father and my now ex-husband felt believing in Santa Claus would warp the children’s perception of God and tarnish his faith. He took it upon himself to tell our three-year-old son the story of St. Nicholas to explain why we exchange gifts in an attempt to honor a man who gave to the needy. The story of St. Nicholas shows the actions of true faith. It is heartwarming and real, but not to a three-year-old.
Therefore, when at Mimi and Papaw’s house for Christmas, our son proclaimed to his four-year-old cousin, “Santa Claus is dead,” childhood illusions were shattered. My husband’s brother hit the ceiling because he wasn’t ready for his daughter to know the truth. In addition, the grandparents were devastated by the turmoil at their Christmas celebration. But wounded feelings healed and life went on.
By the time my daughter (third child) was three, my former husband still refused to celebrate Santa Claus, but not so vocally. Although he refused to participate, he turned a blind eye to my attempts to give my children a normal childhood.
My efforts were aided by my aunt and uncle. Uncle Bill was a big man, six foot four and three hundred pounds. After he retired, he played Santa in the mall in Laurel, Mississippi, every year. He had no need for padding. My ex often would not go with us to see my family at Christmas. Capitalizing on his absence, I took my four children to the mall to see Santa Claus.
I was expecting number five, and number four was too young to understand. The two older boys understood about Santa, and they knew the man in the mall was Uncle Bill. My daughter was still unsure about the whole situation, but she was afraid to sit on Santa’s lap. Her two big brothers sat on his lap, causing her to become brave. The eldest held her hand to go up to Santa. With uncertainty, she climbed onto the man’s lap.
With a jolly chuckle as the line for Santa visits and pictures grew, Santa said, “Ho, ho, ho! What do you want for Christmas, little girl?”
Like lightning the epiphany struck! Perhaps the costume deceived my daughter, but not the voice.
With great indignation, she placed her hands on her hips and shrieked so that every child in the mall could hear, “You are not Santa! You’re Uncle Bill!”
She jumped down and stalked off, angry at having been tricked. All around, parents grumbled and children mumbled. My daughter’s proclamation of her epiphany regarding Santa shattered childhood illusions.
I wanted to sink into the floor, but by the time we loaded into the car, I was laughing. It was so NOT funny, all I could do was laugh.
Twelve years later, Uncle Bill died a few days before Christmas. Viewing him in his coffin, my son’s proclamation came to mind. “Santa Claus is dead.” Then, I thought again. Santa Claus could never be dead for Uncle Bill lived by faith. He had shown the same Christian charity as St. Nicholas. The spirit of Santa Claus lives even in the hearts of children who had an epiphany and made a proclamation to shatter illusions.

For Bill Ishee, September 25, 1932-December 17, 2007. I love you, Uncle Bill. Your example will always keep Santa Claus alive and well.

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