Yesterday at the post office, Sophie focussed on a lady carrying a large green box.
“It’s not for me,” the lady said to Sophie. “It’s for my daughter. I’ve been naughty this year; I don’t get any presents.”
“Don’t listen to her,” I told Sophie, reacting without really thinking about tact, because this seemed like an important point for a little girl to understand. “Every one is a little naughty. Almost everyone tries to be nice but sometimes fails. It’s mostly about forgiveness. You’ll get presents anyway, even if you’re not perfect — because no one’s perfect.”
There goes part one of the Santa myth, I guess. Sophie is only nineteen months old and I’m already modifying Santa to fit make him more about the Christianity I believe in, which is different from the mainstream Christianity I see in the media. It shouldn’t be so unusual, though. I grew up Episcopalian and that involves collectively reciting, every week: “Dear lord, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and what we have left undone…” That effectively covers all the bases: we’re all naughty. “We are truly sorry and we humbly repent,” the prayer ends, and then the congregation all shake hands or hug and say “Peace be with you, and also with you.”
I guess that’s what I should have said to the lady at the post office: Peace be with you.
It just makes me sad, seeing kids’ letters to Santas declaring, “Please, I’ve been pretty good.” They know they haven’t been perfect, and they’re worried far too much, when I think they should just learn about peace and forgiveness.
Of course, I also tried to convince my Episcopalian Sunday school — when I was eleven years old — that a loving God wouldn’t really sentence anyone to eternal damnation. Purgatory, maybe, but not Hell. I guess I am non-mainstream after all.
But then, last night we went to the local botanical gardens Christmas light show, and my bah-humbug mood finally lifted. Sophie wanted to touch each strand of lights wound around the palm trees. Sophie also wanted to show every other toddler the beautiful blue marble she found yesterday and managed to hold on to without dropping. The band played “Wassail” and other songs I love, while Sophie and her little friend M flapped their arms and attempted to jump. The pose-with-Santa man “ho-ho-d” with sincere cheer, near a fire for roasting marshmallows, while down the hill there were horses pulling a wagon, all surrounded by lush plants in this amazing otherworldly landscape. Streets & cars & stores seemed far away. We wandered among the magical dark garden, noticing that everything simply smelled good, enjoying our friends, admiring the night-lit waterfalls, and agreeing with Sophie saying, “Wow.”