Jonathan Ryan Vassallo | ‘Daddy, Is Santa Claus Real?’ Illustration by Stephanie Matos
“Daddy, is Santa Claus real?” Sammy asked his father a week before Christmas.
This is perhaps one of the most important moments in any child’s cognitive development, and no one understood that better than Mr. Bell. Questioning the existence of Santa Claus shows that a child is beginning to think independently and rationally. Santa Claus is usually the first target, amongst a few other characters children eventually question, including the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and God. Parents need to be very careful when handling this delicate question. Some parents make the mistake of not even telling their children that Santa Claus is real; but this lie that mostparents choose to tell their children is probably one of the most honest things they can do.
Mr. Bell had thought about this question since Sam’s first Christmas. The path for his son’s future would be paved based on how he answered Sam’s questions. Mr. Bell wanted to embrace this moment; he wanted his son to believe.
“Why do you ask that, son?”
“Because Robbie Flemming said that Santa Claus is not real; that he’s just some old guy dressed up in a suit. He said that parents say he is real to fool their children.”
“Robbie Flemming sounds like a smart boy. Do you believe him?”
“I think he’s a lair, but he says you and Mom are the liars.”
“Well, son let’s talk about it. Forget what Robbie Flemming said. Do you think Santa Claus is real?”
“Because you said so. And because I have seen him in pictures and at the mall.”
“What did you dress up as for Halloween this year?”
“I was Shrek.”
“Were you really Shrek?”
“No, it was make-believe”
“But, did you like pretending to be Shrek?”
“Yes, it was fun. Everyone said I looked like the real Shrek.”
“Is Shrek real?”
“He’s a cartoon.”
“And cartoons are not real?”
“No, they are just pictures.”
“Well, what about this?” Mr. Bell showed his son a family portrait, which was taken last Christmas at a studio. “Are these people real, or are they just pictures?”
“That’s me, you and Mom. Of course we are real.”
Mr. Bell went to the fireplace, where Mrs. Bell likes to place the Christmas cards they receive, and he chose one that shows a jolly Santa Claus and his reindeer flying over a snow covered house with a bag full of presents.
“Who is in this picture?”
“Is it the real Santa Claus?”
“No, that’s a cartoon that looks like Santa Claus.”
“Ok, now, I want you to do me a favour son.” Mr. Bell got up and went into his son’s room and grabbed a piece of paper and Sam’s crayon set, which was incomplete because he lost a bunch of them at school one day. Mr. Bell handed his son the paper and crayons and asked,
“Can you draw a picture of our family?”
Sam loved to colour, so he did not even reply. He just picked up a crayon and began to draw. Mr. Bell did not go anywhere; he just sat there and watched his son. He could tell that Sam was trying to copy the family portrait that Mr. Bell had just shown him, except he had changed a few details and chose his own colours. The family had yellow skin, and because brown and black were amongst the few colours that were missing, his family also had navy blue hair. Sam drew them wearing sweaters, just like they were wearing in the portrait, but he decided to give them a different background then what was shown in the photo. In Sam’s picture, the family was all standing on a hill next to a purple tree, and a red sun was shining with orange birds flying in the sky.
Sam finished his drawing and gave it to his father who admired it for a moment and then asked his son,
“Is this picture real?”
“No, it’s just a drawing.”
“But the people in the picture; are they real?”
“Yes, it’s us.”
“It’s a very good picture son. May I keep it?”
“Yes, I drew it for you.”
“I’m going to buy a frame for it and hang it up in the living room, son, and whenever you look at it you will remember our talk. You are a very intelligent boy. I want you to remember that always. I want you to always be happy, so, if Santa Claus makes you happy, then it does not matter if he exists or not. The world is full of things that are real, which we do not want to be real, but we have the power to fill it with things that we want to be real as well. Do you understand?”
“I think so.”
“Sam, do you like Santa Claus?”
“Because he makes people happy, and because at Christmas time he brings me presents.”
“That’s great son. I like Santa Claus, too. What are you going to ask Santa Claus for Christmas this year?”
Mr. Bell never did answer his son’s question, but this was all part of his plan. He wanted his son to answer the question on his own.
“I want new colours and a new drawing book.”
“Well, why don’t you write him a letter and ask for some? Maybe you will get what you want.”
“And, do not forget to tell him what a good boy you’ve been.”
The letter read:
How are you? I hope you are good. It is very cold this year, especially here in Kingston. I hope you are not sick. For Christmas, I would like a new set of colours and a drawing book. I have been very good. You can just ask my dad.
Robbie Flemming says you are not real, but I think you are. I hope you have a good Christmas and do not forget to dress warm when you are delivering presents.
That year, Sammy got what he asked for. He woke up and opened his presents: a brand new set of pencil colours and a drawing book. There was also a letter addressed to him sitting on the fireplace, right next to an empty cup that had had some milk in it and some half eaten cookies on a plate. The letter said:
Thank you for your kind letter. I am sure you will do great things with your colours and drawing book. Can you draw me a picture for next year? What do you think my house looks like?
ps. Please show this letter to Robbie Flemming.
“Thanks for the colours and drawing book.”
Mr. Bell looked at his son, smiled and said, “I’ll let Santa Claus know you like them.”
School started again in early January and all the children were still very excited and energetic from the Christmas holidays; everyone except one boy who sat quietly by the stairs while all the other children played in the snow. Sammy went over to talk to the boy.
“What’s wrong Robbie?”
“I did not get what I wanted for Christmas.”
“What did you ask for?”
“A cell phone.”
“Did you ask Santa Claus for one?”
“I told you, Santa Claus is not real.”
“Really? Then where did I get this?” Sammy showed Robbie the letter he got from Santa Claus.
“Your mom and dad wrote that.”
“Believe what you want!” Sammy said and left his friend to sulk by the stairs while he joined everyone else on the playground. He ran towards the swings and saw his friend, Arnie.
“Hey Arnie, did you have a good Christmas?”
“It was great. I got a brand new computer game and a new action figure. What about you?”
“I got a new colouring set and a drawing book from Santa Claus.”
“You mean your parents bought it for you?”
“No, I got it from Santa Claus.”
“Santa is not real.”
“Who told you that?”
“Robbie Flemming said so.”
“Why do you believe Robbie Flemming?”
“I don’t know. I asked my parents if Santa Claus was real and they said he was, but Robbie Flemming said that our parents are just lying to us.”
“Would you prefer it if Robbie is telling the truth or if your parents are telling the truth?”
“I’d be happier if my parents are telling the truth.”
“Me too, that’s why I believe Santa Claus is real. What does Robbie Flemming know anyways?”
“I guess you’re right. Hey, do you want to go build a snowman?”
“No, it’s too cold outside. Let’s go inside and draw instead. I brought my new colours with me.”
“Ok, sure. What do you want to draw?”
“Let’s draw a picture of Santa Claus’ house.”
“But I don’t know what Santa Claus’ house looks like.”
“It doesn’t matter; just use your imagination.”
Illustration by: Stephanie Matos