In the Cawley household, Christmas is still a time of benevolent wonderment and outright lies. The beautiful Christmas tree shines in the middle of the big bay window, the plastic carolers sit frozen in a sea of fake snow next to the front door, and my parents insist that Santa is real to their four children between the ages of 18 and 27.
Not to ruin the surprise for any four year olds that might be reading, but just to be clear, the four of us do know that Santa isn’t real. We know that he doesn’t account for 50% of our presents and his lust for sugar cookies is merely a clever ploy to further cement our long-gone holiday belief.
We let them know that we know, too. The Cawley children poke holes in Santa’s story more often than your family’s most infamous atheist. Not because we hate Christmas, but because our parents’ ability to fend off accusations of the most obvious lie in the world are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Mostly because they stick to the script. Every inquiry about what we’re getting for Christmas is met with a barely sarcastic, “Well you’ll have to ask Santa,” which is hard to argue with.
Despite our collectively cynical points of view, my parents hold strong. Year in and year out, they endure the snide remarks, the side-eyed glances, and the unending hope that we’ll catch them in an unexplainable lie on the happiest day of the year. They put out cookies, rustle the fireplace, and label every other present as “From: Santa” in handwriting that is more unrecognizable than that found on your physician’s prescription pads.
Every year we grow older, we assume that this year is going to be the last year. We believe that eventually they will cave and Christmas will simply be that one time of year we all hang out and give each other gifts. No more illusions of magical sleighs, flying livestock, or sugar-crazy madmen breaking into our houses to leave us things we only kind of need. Every year, we assume their resolve with dwindle.
But low and behold, next year rolls around and their resolve has doubled. Santa is more real than Bruce Springsteen and his cookie cravings have doubled along with their resolve. His reindeer are stronger, his sleigh is bigger, and his Ho’s are louder and more glorious than ever before.
And behind that cynical facade us Cawley kids put up is an undeniable appreciation for their commitment. Because this herculean resolve pays off five minutes before Christmas starts, as my parents force us to wait at the top of the stairs before we can descend on our gifts. These four adult Cawley children are turned into 5 year olds that want nothing more than to storm down those stairs and rip open every present that they can get their hands on, all because of this resolve.
An audible “Whoooooa” can be heard at every Cawley Christmas morning. Not because we’re in shock at the amount presents in front of us, but because, for a split second, it feels like Santa really did show up. Our 20-something coolness is briefly suspended by a story that our parents have been telling us for almost three decades. A story that has no basis in reality but is more important than any carol, psalm, or prayer you’ll say on Christmas day:
Miracles can happen. Even if your parents have to lie about them.