Look at it this way A reason to believe
On Christmas Eve 364 days ago, The Kid snuck downstairs after I settled for a short winter’s nap to perch a video camera near the milk and cookies and aimed it at the tree.
Alas, the Energizer Bunny is no match for Santa and the batteries ran out ... I told him on Christmas morn.
This holiday season started just hours after Election Day when I took him to a doctor’s appointment in Danbury. Afterward, I granted his wish to go the Danbury Fair Mall. Little did I know Santa was already conducting interviews.
At 7, The Kid knows what he wants. Of course, one of the evergreen lessons of the season involves coping with disappointment.
“I want a phone,” he tells the man in red.
Afterward, he marches to Macy’s and writes a letter to Santa. He sketches a nose-less Nick with a beard resembling coil springs from a Buick.
“I want a phone,” he writes, apparently dubious of Santa’s memory. He sweetens the pot. “I love you.”
Eleven days later he asks to see Santa at the Stamford Town Center following the Parade Spectacular. I resist, citing crowds. But our stop for lunch proves magical.
“Wow, the line we’ve had since the end of the parade just vanished,” an elf marvels.
The Kid says what he’s come to say: “I want a phone.”
Santa, feeling the heat, removes his hat. He may as well have been Batman discarding his mask.
The Kid stays quiet for a while, finally sharing his thoughts as we hit the streets to stroll back to the car. Nearby jingling bells provide a soundtrack.
The Kid: I like Santa. But he’s not actually the real Santa.
Me: Who’s not the real Santa?
The Kid: That guy. The other guy is the real Santa. They tricked us. The bigger the store, the real Santa.
Me: Do you want to go to Macy’s in New York and see Santa?
The Kid: Is that the biggest one?
Me: Macy’s in New York is really the biggest store. (Explaining Amazon seems unwise.) Do you want to go there one day?
The Kid: Yeah.
Me: How can you tell that wasn’t the real Santa?
The Kid: Because his hair’s not like that.
He flattens his own brown curls with both hands.
Me: What did you say to him?
The Kid: I want a telephone.
Me: What did he say?
The Kid: “I’ll check if I can do that for you.”
Me: So what does he do now?
The Kid: He tells the real Santa.
Me: So he’s like Santa’s secret agent?
The Kid: Yeah, there’s lots of agents. A hundred million.
He’s the son of journalists, so math is not his strong suit. He revises his answer.
The Kid: There’s 50. You know how I know? There’s 50 states.
Me: So this is the Connecticut Secret Agent Santa, and the real Santa is at the North Pole?
That seems to work for him, and he assures me he does like all Santas.
The Kid: I just like the pretend Santa, but I looooove the real Santa even more.
His emphasizes his fondness by stretching the vowel like Smokey Robinson.
I remind him of a memorable tete-a-tete with Santa in New Canaan in 2015.
“Not real!” he declares.
Something makes him reconsider Santas of Christmas past. “Oh, when I was little. He was real.”
“Whew,” I say for the first time in my life.
A promise has been made, so three weeks later we surprise him with an appointment in Herald Square. The massive red-and-white sign declaring Macy’s “The World’s Largest Store” greets us like stock footage in a Hallmark flick.
The Kid questions nothing on the eighth floor. He climbs on Santa’s lap and makes his intentions clear.
“I want a phone.”
He exits the store with a Sunny the Snowpal astronaut, then immediately engages with a homeless man sitting just beneath a Macy’s window telling the story of “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
Our instinct is to steer him away. He knows better.
He asks the young man if he is cold. He asks if he can get him anything.
The man compliments The Kid’s new plush friend.
“Do you want it?”
“That’s the kindest thing anybody has said to me all day,” the man says. He asks if instead he can shake The Kid’s hand, looking to Mom for approval.
They shake hands.
“God bless you,” the man says.
“Merry Christmas,” our son responds.
A day or two later, The Kid grabs his guitar, a cardboard box, my phone and scrawls “Help People” on a piece of paper. He sets up a sidewalk performance and warbles “Feliz Navidad” in chilling rain in hopes of collecting donations.
Somehow, The Kid picked up the spirit of the season from the sidewalk outside Macy’s.
Now that is a miracle on 34th Street.
John Breunig is editorial page editor. Jbreunig@scni.com; 203-964-2281; twitter.com/johnbreunig.