Walking my daughters to school, I could barely contain my excitement. “Guess who I’m going to meet today, girls. Santa Claus!” He’s dashing, he’s all knowing. He can fit down chimneys and make someone’s dreams come true. The embodiment of humor and good cheer, Santa is the ultimate Reader’s Digest celebrity hero, and I was not going to miss the chance to meet him. I was amused by the skip in my step. I mean, I get why a kid would be dazzled: The guy knows when she’s been bad or good! But I’m a grown-up. Why was I so excited?
“Wow, Mommy. Cool,” said Olivia. “Ask him if he’s real, and tell me what he says.”
Later that morning, the actor who stars in New York’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular emerged from his dressing room, and the photo set went quiet. My mouth went dry. I fumbled over my words. I felt silly, but there I stood, starstruck by Santa Claus. “I have to ask you a question from my daughter,” I said.
We talked. We took a few pictures. We shared stories of children he’s met and people he’s helped (see “From Scrooge to Santa”). Then I got it. Santa is a hero because once a year, he does the extraordinary. Santa is magic. And magic is hope.
“You tell Olivia”—he paused a beat, that twinkle in his eye—“that I’m as real as Olivia is. And that the more she believes, the more my magic grows.”