Leonard Bishop, the inspiration for this blog, was one of the best fibbers I have ever met. He could make up stories so fast, you felt they HAD to be true. He once confided about an old story, “I’ve told it so many times, I can’t remember if it is real or not!”
But when it came to his family, Leonard was true as a knight. He couldn’t lie, even when his son Luke, five years old at the time, asked the inevitable question: “Dad, Is there a Santa Claus?” His loving answer is a grand reminder for the holiday season.
by Leonard Bishop, Author of Dare To Be A Great Writer
My son, Luke, asked me, “Dad, is there a Santa Claus?” I sat fixed in a painful decision. Five-year-old children must have a sense of fantasy and fable. But when a well-intended lie sneaks into love, the lie remains and the love is changed. The heart carries a soiled shadow. Children must soon learn the truth and the truth is not always cruel.
I told him, “I’m sorry, Luke. There is no Santa Claus. He’s just a chubby fella someone made up a long, long time ago. When you get presents on Christmas, your family and friends give them to you. Because they know you’re special, and they love you.”
His gentle blue eyes clouded with sorrow and I held him and stroked him and hushed my voice near his face. “Would you like me to tell you about all the marvelous gifts you already have? Gifts you’ll be getting? Gifts which that ‘let’s pretend’ fella, Santa Claus, could never bring you?” He pouted sadly, and nodded.
“Your mother is a miraculous gift,” I told him.”She brings you into life as a gift to the world. She feels you from her deepest self. She tends you with kisses and secret whispers and giggly games and she is the first one you love. She never goes away to a far, far place while you wait for so long you begin forgetting her. She is always there, holding you, guarding you, giving to you. She is a celebration of love and never tires of being with you. And one day, very suddenly, you are all grown up and anxious to leave and she watches you go, but you are still softly hugged in her heart.
“Candy canes crumble and popcorn dries and yummies are quickly swallowed and gone. But the sun always rises to spread its glory over the land like warm caramel. Christmas trees wilt and tassels tear, but the moon forever slides into the dark sky to dangle like a glowing bulb wreathed in a cloak of glittering stars. The decorated stockings frazzle and bright gift wrappings are thrown away but the gift of the earth is always before you, with forests and hills and oceans and lanes leading you to curious places you have never been before. Greeting cards are lost and visitors drift away, but the festival of seasons keep changing in the world, year after year. They bring their different smells and feels and tastes and startling colors–and remember that morning you saw your first rainbow? It was such a lovely ribbon wrapped around the world.
“There is the gift of playing and being studious and the times of learning given by your school teachers who care for your heart and mind. They teach you true stories and numbers and the endowment of astonishment and wonder. They read books to you until you can read. You learn about men and women who opened the darkness of the world, and shaped the nations of freedom and light. Instead of plastic and tin cheapies that soon break or are stepped on, your teachers present you with the human adventure and guide you in your rush to the dreams that never wear out.
“When you awaken you think about the wonderful gift of friends, and they think about you: ‘Hey, let’s wrestle, let’s hide in the yard, wanna go fishing? Look at what I colored–good, huh? Oooooh, you flopped in the mud and your mom will get mad; did you see that lightning last night? Wow, I was scared. Let’s strip to our skivvies in’a rain.’
“Friends are funful, playing and brave and sometimes they cry but you never wait a long lonely year for them to come over and mess your room and tell you jokes your folks are not supposed to hear. The fire engines and fierce robots get broken, but your friends are right there when you need them and their laughing is not some ho-ho-ho make-believe.
“And tomorrow, Luke, isn’t that another wondrous gift that life gives you every day? Don’t bother to count all your tomorrows, Luke–will you run out of numbers. Tomorrow is a greater expectation, a better hope, a longer time of laughing. A strong ambition, a fuller reaching out to grasp more of life. One day tomorrow you’ll play baseball and study the eye of a frog; you’ll read history and tinker with machines and put on serious clothes for a school dance. You’ll drive a car and begin a joyous search to find your own precious love. Sometimes todays are dark–especially when Daddy says there is no Santa Claus–and there are some hurts and a little fear–but joy always comes in the morning of tomorrow which is polished and glossy and waiting for you to hurry into it.
“The finest gift your mother and father give you is your awareness of God. You can’t see God and you can’t always understand God; for God is not pretend. If you could reach your hand into your heart, then you would know where God lives. And if I take away your Santa Claus and bring you the joy of God, then I am your friend. And here’s a marvelous truth, Luke–the One who created the entire world and all the heavens, knows your personal name and dearly loves you. Wow, Luke, that is such a magnificent gift.
“You can give presents at Christmas because you love someone–and you can receive presents at Christmas because you are loved. All happiness comes from loving and being loved. And if I say there is no Santa Claus it’s only because we don’t need him to know the truth of love–we only need each other.”
My son Luke sat in silence, and I waited. He slowly put his arms around my neck and whispered, “Dad, I love you,” and I thought whatever I give my son, God first gave to me, and Christmas is just another day of loving.
©Copyright Leonard Bishop/ www.leonardbishop.com
(first published Sunday, December 2, 1984 the Manhattan Mercury)