Tuesday, December 1, 2015

So is Santa real or what? By Catherine Lanigan and Rula Sinara

One of Catherine's three Christmas trees
Happy December 1st! It's hard to believe that November is over, but as they say, time flies when you're having fun and boy did we have fun with the Harlequin Heartwarming Thanksgiving month of free stories and giveaways!

So now that the holidays are in full swing, it's hard not to think about gift giving and shopping. Right? I mean, yes, it's only the 1st day of the month, but you have people like myself who haven't even written up lists or cards yet...and then you have people like Catherine LOL! Look at that tree of hers! And she has three of them, plus the rest of her house decorated already! And she's already hosting guests...

Catherine's holiday table all set!
Catherine's pork roast. It even looks like Mr. Herbivore Deer on the serving dish is tasting it! 
I'm thinking I should nick name her Martha ;). If anything, I'm feeling inspired to decorate! As for shopping...I thought Santa was supposed to take care of gifts.

Seriously though, we were talking about blog topics and Catherine mentioned the first time she doubted Santa's existence. I can't remember when I stopped believing in Santa, but I distinctly recall my youngest deciding Santa wasn't real.

Rula's memory: The "Santa's not real...but dragons are" debate

My youngest is a logical, literal and lovable kid. He always means well. He really does. And now that he's a bit older, he's more careful about public conversation topics, but I'll never forget that day when he was in second grade.... Right before he got home on the bus, his teacher called me to let me know that half his class went home in tears. Apparently, a big "argument" had broken out at lunch over whether Santa was real or not. My child, who has two older brothers (who made keeping the fantasy alive difficult), had argued that Santa didn't exist...but that dragons did. Now picture me doing a face palm with the phone against my ear. All I could do was promise to talk to him and to have her extend my apologies to other parents.

You see, my kids had been watching a really cool documentary (anything narrated by Patrick Stewart...aka Captain Jean Luc Picard...is cool) called "Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real". It's a fascinating program that gives historical and scientifically plausible reasons as to why dragons might have really existed. Bottom line, my kid felt like he had data to argue his case.

And sure enough, when he got home, he was in a superb mood. I asked him about what happened and his response was: "We had the coolest debate at school, Mom, and I think I won!"

Oy! I couldn't be mad. I knew it had a lot to do with his budding personality and unique way of looking at things. My die-hard paleontologist had walked in the door like a lawyer who'd won a case. He thought the 'debate' was fun and had no idea just how deeply upset the other kids were about Santa not existing. Of course, he felt bad when I gently explained the situation. I can't help but see the innocent humor in it though. Now, if I can come up with cave paintings of Santa Claus to prove he might really exist...

Catherine's memory: Giving up the Ghost or Holding on, Believing Against All Odds

Catherine's snowy photo that reminds her of the night she saw Santa (minus the moonlight)
I had just turned thirteen and only two weeks into this life as a teenager, I hated it. Nothing had gone right for me since December 11th, my birthday. Here it was, Christmas Eve and I was ready for my life to be over. As the eldest of four children, the role of caretaker to my younger siblings, being the responsible one to help with the household chores, cooking, laundry and cleaning up after others had finally flattened me. My mother was frazzled with Christmas “doings” and I didn’t blame her. She had a big Christmas dinner to serve the next day. We’d gone out for our annual Christmas Eve afternoon and evening of delivering presents to family who still lived in town and to the godparents of my brothers and sister. (My godparents had moved to California or Hawaii when I was still a toddler. I’d forgotten their names by the time I was in school. I tried to envision them in some exotic setting. Any place would have been better than pewter sky covered Indiana. At least that Christmas, that’s how I felt. )

It didn’t help that at each stop every word spoken to me caused me to cringe and swallow a tear or three. “Cathy, my but you’ve gotten so big. Just how much weight have you gained?” Or, “Is that a pimple I see? No fun being a teenager now, is it?” Or my favorite, “Did you outgrow your glasses or are you vain now that you’re a teenager?”

Stuff like that to make those memories solid in your heart. You know?

My father took us out to a very nice supper club for dinner. It was beautiful with the full moon reflecting off the icy lake water like silver beads. There was a huge flocked tree by the picture window and I kept staring at the tree wondering if there was any such thing as magic at Christmas. My youngest brother, Bob, was only five and he was just inching over the edge of whether he believed in Santa or not. We were all playing the game to the hilt. Teasing him that maybe he’d be on the “naughty” list. But as Bob’s despondency grew along with wariness about the whole Santa thing, I realized that deep in my heart, I, also, wasn’t quite sure if there was a Santa or not. Sure, my parents bought the presents and since I was seven I’d been helping Mother hide presents and wrap them on the sly. But still, there was this “thing” inside me that made me wonder. Was it possible?

Perhaps it was because my reality that Christmas of being this unformed blob of human mass that was not quite a child anymore and certainly not a young woman yet, was frankly, painful.

Maybe I was escaping. But to this day, what happened was as real to me now as it was then.

I shared a room with my sister though we each had our own single bed by that time. We had long, low dresser that my mother had bought at a literal fire sale and the chest always smelled like smoke to me. Often I would sit on top of the dresser and look out the window to our pretty back yard that my mother worked so hard to perfect. It was nearly midnight and everyone was sound asleep. The moon was enormous that night and the snowy ground looked iridescent and seemed to glow from within. I was asking if there was any magic in life at all. At that very moment, I saw a shooting star. Then another. I kept staring at the stars and they seemed to wink at me. Then I saw the shadow of something crossing the moon. At first I thought it was a flock of geese, but then it took on the form of Santa and his sleigh. I blinked, knowing that I was seeing things. It remained and kept moving across the sky. Suddenly, my heart felt lighter. I knew that somehow my future was going to be brighter. The shroud of gloom I’d been wearing was stripped from my shoulders.

Even then, I believed that my guardian angel was looking out for me. I didn’t believe it was actually Santa I was seeing, but it was something. A sign. A flutter of magic that had drifted down from heaven to touch me and give me hope.

Christmas magic means many things to many people, but the true meaning is that God came to earth to give us hope. With hope we feel brave enough to give all our love to others. And as a romance author, I believe that love DOES make the world go around. There’s never enough love.

So, this Christmas, I’m sending my love-filled wishes out to all of my sister authors and editors to our very special readers. God bless you, Everyone!

Catherine and one of 7 garlands decorating her home

Do you or your kids/grand kids still believe in Santa? Share your memory of why or why not you believe in Old St. Nick. Are you ready for December and wrapping up 2015, regardless of which holidays you celebrate?

27 comments:

  1. What?
    Santa isn't real?
    He has an address.
    I've seen pictures of him.
    And somebody's eating those cookies I leave out.

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    1. Well, between your evidence and Catherine's, maybe he does indeed exist! I'll have to open a new debate with my son ;).

      I'm curious as to how many 'Team Catherine' vs 'Team Rula's kid' we'll have here today RE if Santa's real or not!

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    2. I LOVE YOU, PAM! Yeah! And I'm all for this debate. I keep looking every year. My mother used to say, "I expect miracles and I get them." Time for more miracles, yes?

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  2. I loved reading your story, Catherine.
    "With hope we feel brave enough to give all our love to others." Awesome words!

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    1. I love that quote by Catherine too! BTW, if you check out Catherine's website, you'll find that she's also famous for her 'Angel Tales' series of books, based on real experiences, and I believe she told me that this story/memory is included in one of them.

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  3. Rula, Catherine, your posts never disappoint!

    I loved both stories.

    Even as a kid I went with logic, so, Rula, I would've been firmly on your son's side of that debate...at that age. (And, yeah, why not dragons?! How far of an evolutionary leap are they from dinosaurs?)

    Someone made a comment in response to Roz's post yesterday that our job as authors is to effectively suspend disbelief. Catherine, you do that in such a beautiful way in all your stories, and this post captures the magic of Christmas for me.

    Adding to Rula's comment above about Catherine's Angel Tales, Catherine also wrote Miracles Are Golden, which I enjoyed thoroughly!

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    1. LOL, Kate, this is my child who was born a paleontologist (obsessed with the subject at a scientific level), so I think the similarity to dinosaurs had him ;).

      And I have 'Miracles are Golden' too. Such a beautiful story!

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    2. Awwww. Kate, you make me feel so good. I'm actually really into the Christmas season this year. I'm going to Houston to be with my son and family. HE was really into dinosaurs, as well. But not as much as Star Wars.
      Anyway, I'm all for suspending disbelief. And as romance authors, if we don't believe in the magic of love...who will????????

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  4. What? Santa isn't real? Aw--sniff, sniff.
    Gorgeous photos. Catherine, you are an act to follow for sure.

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    1. Thank you, Roz. I hope you have a splendid Christmas season!!!

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  5. What a beautiful story, Catherine. There is something magical about Christmas, and I'm glad it helped that budding teenager through a tough time.

    Rula, your son sounds a lot like mine, logical and practical. Only mine would never have broached the subject, for fear that the Santa presents might not show up if he admitted to not believing. He's in his twenties now, but just a couple of years ago, someone was talking about how we're so busy we've lost the meaning of Christmas or something along those lines. Later my son shook his head and said, "I love Christmas. Why can't they just let me enjoy it without telling me how unfulfilled I am?"

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    1. Beth, your son and my son are sooooo alike. Christmas should bring out the best in all of us. It is the time of year that truly does give me hope.

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    2. Beth, I recall the 'shoot I shouldn't have said anything' look in my son's eyes when the present connection dawned on him lol.

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  6. I like to imagine a good dinosaur (like the one in the new movie) in a sleigh, bringing gifts to children. Rula, you son would probably love that debate on what would have happened if the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs missed the earth after all. It's hard to fault an agile mind. And Catherine, I'd like to have been sitting beside you on that dresser, looking out at the moon and seeing a miracle slip across it. I, too, believe they're all around us if we wrap ourselves in love. Good going, Girls! I'm all in the spirit!

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    1. Sorry - forgot to the make the dinosaur/dragon connection so that this makes some kind of sense. Isn't the belief that some dinosaurs did actually breath fire because of something contained in them?

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    2. Muriel, if I recall correctly, the documentary (which really is fascinating to watch if you can find it) argues that they evolved in the Cretaceous period and had bacteria in their gut that produced both hydrogen and methane gas...hence the ability to both fly (lifting such heavy bodies off the ground) and breath fire.

      That said...maybe that methane gas could explain Santa's reindeer flying!! :)

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    3. OOOH! I SO love the idea of an explanation that it's gas that get those reindeer onto the rooftops. See? Isn't this great?

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  7. I'm thinking you are right, Muriel. Some legends say that dragons were teradactyls...(spelling) the flying dinosaurs. Others say there were dinosaurs that had horrid breath that was enough to knock you over. Probably did. I believe in the dragons...for what it's worth. There is so much in the unseen world, that just because we can't see it, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

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    1. So do I! I'm telling you, that documentary was convincing! But I also believe there are truths to things we can't necessarily explain. Think of all the things we have or know now that centuries ago no one would have believed.

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  8. What great posts you ladies write! I'm firmly on the Catherine side of things. I think you need to take magic where you find it, and there's no better time or place than Christmas.

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  9. Thanks, Liz! I'm listening to the non-stop Christmas songs on the radio and couldn't be happier. I know lots of people think they are so boring, but I don't want to know those folks.

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  10. What a beautiful, magical post! Thank you, Rula and Catherine. That was just what I needed to read to start this season. Rula- your kids are as awesome as their mom. I love how your son's take away was "I won the debate!" lol. My daughter had a similar debate except she was on the opposing side and came home to tell me that she won by saying, "My mother said Santa is real and she NEVER lies to me." Gulp* that was the moment I had to come clean because she was right- I never had lied to her and didn't want to start.

    Catherine- your story felt like a ballet put into word- so graceful and moving. I was that awkward teenager, too. I believe you did see your guardian angel who appeared when you needed a sign- and how right she was to show you the magical future ahead of you.

    Rula and Catherine, you are the first gifts of the season and I treasure you both. Happy Holidays <3

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    1. Oh, boy, Karen, I can imagine the guilt when your daughter said you never lie to her! That's a tough one when we want kids to enjoy childhood.

      I agree that Catherine's writing is poetic!

      And thanks for the kind words. You have such a good heart and you're a gift to us all!

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  11. This made me chuckle. Sweet post, ladies!

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  12. Loved this! I still believe in Santa!

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