Daughter: Is there a Santa?
Me: Of course there is. Why?
Daughter: Kids at school say there’s no such thing.
Me: But he gives you presents every year. If there were no Santa, then—
Daughter: It’s you. They say it’s you. It’s just parents, pretending for some reason.
Me: That’s ridiculous.
Stalling for time, I load the dishwasher. There is a bottle of wine on the counter, a nice little thing from the Rhône Valley. It’s been opened but it’s only been on the counter for a day. My daughter follows me into the kitchen. She watches me pour a glass of wine.
Daughter: Can I try it?
Daughter: Touch it to my lips?
Daughter: Let me smell it.
I hand her the glass. She takes a sip.
Me: I said no.
Daughter: There’s no Santa.
I take the glass from her and drink from it. It tastes better than yesterday. Oxygen got in. She’s almost nine. At some point won’t she just see me as deceitful? I imagine making the philosophical justification later on, about joy and magic and the wonder of belief. Preserving something beautiful about childhood, the imagination.
Of course, we aren’t terribly warm to religion these days. They hear the radio, when it’s on. Kids at school talk about it. People get their heads chopped off these days, for joy and magic and the wonder of belief. We listen to Christmas music, when the time is right, and when the daughters ask about this Jesus fellow we put him in the same box as Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch. I take another drink. My daughter watches me. She squints, nearly smiles.
Daughter: Can I watch Pee Wee’s Playhouse?
I received the box set of Pee Wee’s Playhouse for my birthday. My wife worries about screen time more than I do but we’re a team. I know what she’ll say, if she knows I let one of the daughters watch TV on a non-TV day.
The wine is better with each sip.