There comes a time in all of our lives when childhood begins to wane, and along with it the magic and belief in Santa. I remember the hollow sadness accompanying the realization that Christmas would never be the same again. I knew I'd never again look up in the sky on Christmas Eve and feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end at the possibility of seeing a sleigh dart past the stars. I knew I'd never again awaken in the middle of the night to the sounds of crinkling paper and jingle bells, my heart pounding with exhilaration and fear.
In the years that followed, Christmas became less of a whimsical affair and more of a standard family get-together. My siblings would all come back into town and we'd get to see the cousins again. We'd take bets on which unwitting guest (usually someone's friend or date) would get sick from eating the turkey our grandma "refrigerated" on the porch, and who'd get drunk first off her famous homemade eggnog. There would be brunch and movie marathons, gift cards and wish lists.
But the magic was decidedly gone. There was no rush to hop out of bed before the sunrise, no exuberant squeals at the sight of a sooty boot print by the fireplace. The cookies didn't even taste as sweet as they once did. I accepted the void as just another one of those grown-up realities we all have to come to terms with at some point.
A few weeks ago, however, I found myself turned completely around in the car, wagging a pointed finger at my kids in the backseat with a reindeer-sh*t-eatin' grin on my face, singing along with the radio, "YOU BETTER BE GOOD, FOR GOODNESS SAKE," in that classic mom fashion that would have made my teen self cringe.
At that moment, something clicked, and I was taken aback by this sudden jolt of merry rocking my system. As I slowly turned forward in my seat again, mouth agape, I realized what had happened:
I felt it. I felt the magic again.
It's the kids. They are so full of unadulterated belief and joy that it radiates off them, surrounding them like an aura. And those of us lucky enough to be near them at the holidays can't help but feel its reverberations, its glow beckoning us like an old friend.
It's in the way their breath catches at the sight of marshmallows in hot chocolate and sprinkles on cookies.
It's in the way their eyes widen and their sweaty palms find yours as they step forward in line to sit on Santa's lap.
It's in the way they stand back in wonder, with their gaze fixed on the twinkling lights of a freshly decorated tree in the living room, and whisper to themselves, "I just LOVE it."
It's in the twirl of a full Christmas skirt, in the sticky peppermint coating their face and hands after a well-loved candy cane, in the thrill that moves them to wiggle and beam every time they see a new Christmas card in the mail.
This absolute sense of joy and trusting belief so emblematic of the littlest among us is both powerful and inspiring. It's the stuff we should all be grasping for, something we'd all benefit from tapping into now and then. It's something I wish for all of us this year, as someone who hasn't felt it in far longer than I'd like to admit.
This year, let your gaze linger on the glimmering lights and ornaments as if you were seeing them for the first time. Indulge in the sparkling sugars and sprinkles and frosting. Surrender to the magic that dances through the air as freely as the falling snowflakes this time of year.
Let yourself believe again -- in something, in anything. In Santa, in God, in love, in each other.
Let the kids take your hands this year and show you what this season is all about. Better yet, let them remind you what you once knew -- perhaps decades ago -- with unwavering certainty. There will come a day when they, too, may no longer giggle and wiggle and stand in awe of the season's enchantment. Embrace this gift while you can; it feels so good to be back.
To read more from Catherine, please visit www.ChokingOnApplesauce.com.