Last night, I went out with a couple friends. We played frisbee in the park and then went out for ice cream. As the sun began to set, we decided on our next adventure; we drove out to my old elementary school, which is a few minutes outside of town with an awesome playground. We swung for a while on the swings too small for us, and after a while, we decided to just sit in the bed of the truck and talk.
The lights on the outside of the school kept blinking on and off, so we had frivolous conversations in between light flickers. It became an inside joke; the light comes on. “fuck off!” the light goes off. “the stars are gorgeous.” the light comes on. “STOP IT!” etc.
During the moments of total darkness, we became real. The lights blinked out, and our heads snapped up in the direction of the stars. Wesley pointed out the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, and Gene told us how he’d once spotted the international space station, and pointed it out to us using a fancy app he had on his phone. We discussed how we felt.
“I honestly don’t care if I die.”
“I worry about the future.”
“Isn’t the sky beautiful tonight. I wish I could live in this moment, always.”
We got pretty cheesy and sentimental.
During one of those moments, when the only light was the glow of the stars, I saw it.
I saw a shooting star for the first time.
No one else saw it; they thought I’d imagined it. I shouted and jumped up and pointed, but quick as I’d seen it, it had disappeared behind the thicket of trees off aways. They argued that shooting stars last a bit, that it wouldn’t have disappeared so suddenly. I’ve never heard of that being the case, but I refused to believe them.
“No,” I said. “It was the first shooting star I’ve ever seen. And even if it wasn’t, I’m telling myself it was because it was beautiful.”
This made me think- how often do we trick ourselves into believing things simply because we want them to be true?
If you were raised in a home where Santa was not ruined for you at a young age, you probably hit that phase where you began to doubt Old Saint Nick’s existence. How old were you? 8? 10? 12? I remember when I began to doubt the legitimacy of the legend of Santa for the first time. It made no sense, all logic pointed against him. But still, I held on. It was familiar. It was optimistic. Deep down, I knew Santa was a tale that parents had been telling so children would behave throughout the holiday season. But I wanted to believe it was real. I wanted to believe in a person so good and so selfless that they spent an entire night in the frigid cold, delivering gifts to children all around the world. I wanted to believe in a man who was so jolly, when he laughed his stomach shook like a bowl full of jelly. I wanted this, for around the time I began to doubt Santa, I also began to notice that the people I’d once considered heroes weren’t who I thought they were. I began to recognize reality and see the bad in good people. I saw through the veil. I was an outsider looking in, quietly observing my own disappointment.
Even though my parents told me years ago the truth about Santa, each Christmas Eve I lay in bed, excited for Christmas morning when I’d open gifts from that centuries-old man. I know he’s not real, but the magic is real, and the meaning is real, and as my mother once told me,
“Just because you can’t see that it’s real, doesn’t mean it isn’t real in your heart.”