“Santa’s not real, but the Easter bunny is!”
I remember these words flying out of my mouth and crushing a little girl’s hopes right in front of my face. She was six. I was six, and to this day, I feel awful about it.
Being the youngest in the house isn’t always the easiest. Not when you have a big brother and all of his friends are also your big brothers. Which means, what they learn much quicker being the ornery stinkers they are; running wild through the neighborhood, painting car dashboards with bright orange street paint, stealing dads keys and driving the old farm truck into the ditch, and bribing a younger sister to mow the lawn with promises that yeah, you can hang out with me tonight, but you have to do my chores (and then when you’re done, he’s pulled a Houdini), is exactly what you learn and strive to be like—only much sooner.
Don’t get me wrong. I have awesome memories of my brother. He also taught me a lot of great things too. And now that I’m older and I have two kids of my own, I appreciate him more than ever. It’s part of why I’m writing today—the reason I feel so inspired.
My point is this: nature sort of bares all this time of year and maybe there’s a reason. Maybe it’s time I reflect on my memories and what matters most to me—my family, both blood and extended—and what it means when we’re together.
Halloween is behind us now, and this year my family went trick-or-treating for the first time with one of our closest friend’s family—I love this family. Not just because they are awesome hard working people. I love this family because they’ve struggled together—they’ve made themselves, and they don’t take a moment for granted. Yes, Angie, I’m talking about you. ;0) We went from house to house and my kiddos said trick or treat. I thought about the candy, the decorated porches, and the time people take to keep the tradition of Halloween alive—the importance of Halloween for communities. I thought, as a parent, I want my kids to feel safe, to be able to talk kindly to others they don’t know, and certainly to respond with a thank you after they’ve had a treasure dropped in their bags. I watched the faces of people light up the moment my two-year-old said in her tiny sweet voice, “thank you.” And that’s what matters—not the candy, but the feeling of safety, kindness and gratitude for others because of what they do to share in traditions.
And what about Thanksgiving? It’s a week away, and I think this will be the first year I set the stage for my family. We’re not traveling to grandmas. We’re here—and I don’t want the holiday to JUST be about the food. I want to teach something, say something, and even though my kids are 4 and 2, there has to be something I can already show them that will say, hey, let’s be thankful for what we have—we’re lucky.
So back to my story about Santa and the Easter bunny. At six my brother showed me where mom stashed our gifts, how to peek without hurting the tape, and revealed the truth behind Santa—but the Easter bunny, well—real bunnies are everywhere, so why couldn’t there be a giant one out there—somewhere?
I think the holidays are a time to put some faith in the magic of possibility. Believing in our dreams and hopes and that what we really want has a chance to become real. Believing traditions will always live and someone will care—they’ll listen to our dreams. And of course, I want to teach my kids the importance of caring, magic, and family—ultimately, how the world is bigger than me. We are a community—no way could we exist without ever communicating with someone else in some form. Community pulls together in good and in bad. That’s what this time of year is about—sharing, believing and giving something of yourself back to someone else.