Where Christmas Magic Comes From

My the time  I was five,  I had already sussed out that Santa was the result of my mother calling in favors and cutting financial corners. As the eldest child, and a girl child besides, I grew up understanding the meaning of Christmas:  the cleaning, baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping and secret-keeping itself was a gift that adults offer to children. I was young when I inherited the gift of learning to make that magic happen for others.

By the time I was in my teens, I was so skillful at making the wonders of Christmas appear crisp-edged and bright that I landed a job at the gift-wrap desk at a big, downtown department store. I impressed my middle-aged colleagues with the practiced dexterity of my bows and my ability to smile at an endless line of indecisive and complaining customers.  My tip jar was always full. I understood my customers were not standing in line to have their packages wrapped in shiny red paper. They were a line of grown-up children awaiting Santa, offering me their longing to have someone else things make perfect, wonderful l and right.  I learned how that wish still lingers in some corner of every adult heart.

I’m no longer in the business of delivering magic, although I occasionally perform acts of devotion to delight the ones I love best. But I know it when I see it. I know how often it is the work of some invisible girl, or some middle-aged woman’s hands. And she won’t be there when the package is unwrapped with delight, or when the memory of that moment becomes precious.  Often, her gift is unacknowledged, dismissed with a weary eye-roll and an entitled sigh.

So, may this day offer you a moment of perfection that is not of your doing.  And may you remember what children at Christmas know — you have to leave cookies and milk for Santa, because sustaining magic requires us to acknowledge its source.

Merry Christmas.

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