Clinging to the belief that Santa Claus, and Christmas, represent hope. Photo: Ian Horner
I know a lot of people, including my own children I must admit, doubt your actual existence but I'm writing today to let you know that I still believe. Christmas is a ridiculous time of year, clouded by commercialism, and it's easy to lose sight of what it really is all about. When you have to explain why there are Santas in every shopping mall, or the impossible logistics of delivering presents to every child in the world on the one night, or flying reindeer, it's sometimes easier to give in and side with the naysayers.
But dear Santa, what I choose to believe is that you, and indeed the whole concept of Christmas, represent something else altogether.
And that is hope.
There hasn't been much of that these past few weeks. The senseless slaughter of 26 innocent people, 20 of them children, children young enough to still believe in you probably, in Newtown, Connecticut, has reminded us all that sometimes the world doesn't go as planned. That bad things, very bad things, happen to good people, things outside of their control, things they never saw coming, things they never could have planned for. (Well unless I digress into a conversation about gun control, but I won't. But Barack Obama should.)
This year has been a tough one, in many ways, for many people I know. People have died too young, marriages have broken down, children have struggled, jobs have been lost.
But come Christmas we all seem to take stock and maybe, just maybe, believe that if a woman called Mary can trust in an angel who comes to tell her that she's going to have a baby and that baby will be the son of God and she's OK with that then we too can be OK with whatever life throws at us.
If we stop just for a moment to think about how fearful Mary must have been about what her future held but went ahead and agreed anyway. What would have happened to the world, one might wonder in a rather existential moment, if Mary had have said, ''Actually, thanks Gabriel. I'm good. Life is pretty settled at the moment, Joseph's getting the carpentry business going, the lambs are plump and the chickens laying well. We're OK. Try Ruth next door. She's probably up for it.''
But instead she said, ''Bring it on'', and the rest is history. It truly is.
I think I might take Mary's lead in 2013 and stop thinking about what might happen and deal, much better if I'm honest, with what's actually happening.
Stop worrying about what I need to buy to put under the tree or what recipe I need to cook for the Christmas lunch table and take time to truly appreciate the joy that abounds this time of year.
And it does abound. If you take time to stop and find it. Not even find it really, but just notice it.
In the off-key tones of children singing carols, in the glowing decorations in people's yards, in the crispness of wrapping paper and the curliness of wrapping ribbon.
In the way your own children have relaxed now that school is over, in the way your husband can see the light at the end of the tunnel even though work seems to be piling up before shutdown, in the way your extended family is enjoying the decision-making that happens with Kris Kringle, in neighbourhood gatherings, in work drinks, in every corner of this crazy, too busy, too dark world.
If we just stop and pay attention.
Dear Santa, I can imagine that's what you do come Boxing Day. Just stop and take stock of what you've achieved in the past year. Something we should all do. Stop and reflect.
In the past year I've seen my children grow more confident, find their feet, spread their wings. I've seen my husband cope with adversity with more grace and integrity and compassion then I knew he had. He deserves a better year. I've seen my sister live life with a sense of optimism that I wish I had inherited. Even though she's been dealt some bad cards, and made some bad choices with those cards, she'll be the first to admit, not a day goes by where she doesn't think she's still in the card game. I've seen friends deal with things you wouldn't wish on your enemies, relationship troubles, illness, job loss, family tragedy but somehow manage to keep going and keep smiling and keep laughing.
What have I achieved this year? Maybe that's a better column for next week. Or maybe it's not about me. About what I've achieved. Maybe it's about, or should be about, what I have done to help the important people in my life achieve what they have achieved.
Did Mary even think what will this pregnancy mean for me? Or did she think about the greater good when she agreed to it all? I like to think that's what she was thinking. Sure I'll get fat and bloated and cranky but my child has some important work to do here on planet Earth so I'll deal with it. Even if his father isn't around to help, lucky I have Joseph to help pick up the slack. Remind me to tell Joseph how much I appreciate him.
Dear Santa, I'll stop prattling on soon, I promise, I know you've got stuff to be doing so I'll get to the point, that's what I wanted to tell you. How much I appreciate you. How every year when the facsimile of your jolly face is rolled out and stuck on the side of buildings, or shop-front windows, or blow-up versions of yourself adorn front yards, when reindeer antlers are stuck on car windows, or carols start playing in lifts, I am reminded that no matter how impossible the world seems at times sometimes the best thing to do is actually believe in the impossible.