Saturday, December 26, 2009
Opal, Virginia and Christmas
Yesterday was our first Christmas with baby Opal.
And even though she is still way too young to understand it as anything beyond twinkly lights and endless Christmas music that mommy sings to her off-key, having her here made it a different holiday entirely. Regardless of the depth of her understanding, it still felt like she was the welcomed focus, from the visit from my Ohio family to the hand-made hat/sweater/blanket combo from her grammy.
It was on Thanksgiving when it really occurred to me that we will never again encounter a holiday without her at our side. I toted her around that night attached to my belly in the sling as she alternated between gazing from behind the fabric to snoozing audibly. It was an impressive group of friends and family and trying to envision the evening without her, without the coos of those who snuck a peek at her precious sleeping face, without the pterodactyl shriek she let out in the midst of the toast, seems impossible. Hell, imagining eating breakfast without her propped on a pillow next to me (yes, I eat many meals in bed because it is the warmest room in the house to nurse) seems impossible.
I heard the famous "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" letter on the radio a few weeks ago and I couldn't help but to indulge in a lengthy daydream about Opal at Christmas at age one and two and three, exhibiting the same sense of enchantment that she does now when I do something as simple as clicking my tongue or saying her name at just the right pitch. I really loved the way the newsman replied to Virginia, with a sense of respect for her comprehension of the magic and spirit of it all. And I can only hope to match that with my own daughter. As a good friend of ours said about Opal, "she is still so close to the mystery." And she is our liaison to that world.
Here is the letter to Virginia. Bless her heart-- I hope she maintained her skepticism for everything that disputes the miraculous and unexplainable well beyond her childhood.
"Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897 written by veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church..."
"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
"115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Posted by Heather G at 4:03 PM