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I Believe in Santa’s Hat

December 20, 2011

I know a boy whose mother is dying.  Cancer is a fast moving poison, and it does not discriminate.

Cancer has taken, among the many things, the holidays away from this boy and his family. There is no tree at his house, no presents, no stockings. There is no smell of sugar cookies and the feeling of anticipation that comes from the decorating and the celebrating and the joy. No, at this boy’s house there is a family holding their breath long enough to make it through Christmas. A family waiting for the inevitable. A family waiting for the strength to say goodbye.

In fact, the other day, the boy told me that this year, he is his family’s Santa. He told me that his dad will be dropping him off at Target, and he will be in charge of running the cart through the aisles, picking out presents, and wrapping them when he gets home. This year, he is Santa.

He laughed when he told me this story. He told me it’s a lot of responsibility for someone so young and skinny with the inability to grow facial hair. But he was up for it.  He had planned his list. He would take on the challenge of steering his red Target sleigh, and he would bring joy to his family. Before he left the conversation, he told me, “I’m going to make it rain Christmas!”

So. I went out and bought him a Santa hat.

I bought him a $2 Santa hat from the grocery store. It was red and bright and cheery and, if I wasn’tcareful with it, the high-quality fluff fell out of the ball at the end of the hat. It was a small gesture of hope, and one I wasn’t even sure he’d like. I didn’t want to make light of this very difficult Christmas in his life, but shoot, every Santa needs a hat.

So. Today, I gave him the hat.

I gave him the $2 grocery-store Santa hat with the tacky red velvet and the fluff that fell out of the ball.

You would have thought I gave him a puppy.

The boy’s eyes lit up. He couldn’t grab the hat out of my hand fast enough. He couldn’t settle down. He threw the hat on his head, adjusted it over his ears, and ran around the room yelling, “Merry Christmas!” to everyone he saw. He ran into the hall to show his friends. He ran back to high-five me. He beamed and he laughed and he spun around in circles over his grocery-store Santa hat.

He finally settled himself down and, after a few minutes, walked over to me. His eyes became glossy in the corners. He looked at his shoes and rubbed his foot over a piece of dirt. “Thank you,” he said as he looked up at me and nodded. He held my gaze and nodded again. Acceptance. Empathy. Compassion. They were unspoken emotions between us. An unspoken understanding about the power of the Santa hat. An unspoken acknowledgment that sometimes life is really hard, but these small moments give the courage to go on.

I believe in the magic of Santa this year. I believe in the power of his hat.

I believe it can return a boy to lost months of his childhood. I believe it can remind a person that they are cared for, and loved. I believe it can let a young boy know that he is not forgotten, he is still strong, and there are still moments of joy that are his for the taking. I believe Santa’s hat brings magic to those who wear it.

There will be days to come for this boy that are unbearable. There will be days when he can’t, or won’t, want to go on. There will be days without magic and luster and sparkle and shine.

But today was not one of those days. Today was a good day.

Today was a day for a Santa hat.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2011 5:12 pm

    Oh, Lauren – I am simply undone over here. This is masterful story-telling. And such a story. Thank you for buying the cheesy hat, thank you for sharing looks of compassion, thank you for believing in the Santa hat for this boy and his family. Oh my. This is just gorgeous.

    May you be blessed in ways beyond your imagining this Christmas, friend. I am so grateful for this space and for the joy of seeing your title appear in my inbox. Your writing gives me hope for the future, honey. Keep it up.

    • December 20, 2011 6:12 pm

      Oh, Diana, thank you. You made me cry. I am so encouraged and touched by your support for my writing and, in turn, my life :-). I have found a real friend in you through the blogging community. Thank you, as always, for reading, and taking the time to write. I wish I could express how much it means.

  2. December 20, 2011 8:25 pm

    Dropping in on Diana’s recommendation — she’s yet to steer me wrong. 🙂

    What a beautiful story. These things we can do, even if it’s a $2 hat that threatens to fall apart in our hands. These are things we must do. They change the story, if even for a $2 minute.

    Glad I came by!

    • December 20, 2011 8:42 pm

      Lyla, I am so grateful you came over and read! Thank you for stopping by, and I am so thankful for your encouraging words. I am still amazed that something so seemingly insignificant on my end, meant so much to someone else. It was such a wonderful moment where I was so humbled my this young man. Hope to see you over here again!

  3. December 20, 2011 10:15 pm

    Diana invited us to share this beautiful story. I am so glad she did. You’ve put into beautiful words things only the heart can understand.

  4. December 20, 2011 10:41 pm

    Wonderful! Such a beautiful story! Merry Christmas to your young student and to you and yours!

  5. December 21, 2011 8:31 am

    Lauren – you have me in tears. For the story and the words that tell it and the boy and the hat. Thank you for sharing your beautiful writing with us, and for sharing the story.

  6. December 22, 2011 12:47 am

    I am just aching for this kiddo and his family and his beautiful heart that wants to make it rain Christmas. I wish somehow I could help that effort. I’m so glad you did and that you got the Santa hat. Choking back the tears over here.

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