Santa Claus brought presents for my daughters before they even became my daughters. He left stuffed animals nestled under the tree, a little something to make the long wait for adoption paperwork to wend its way through two countries' bureaucracies more bearable.
And when, finally, our daughters came home, we welcomed Santa with open arms and a ticker-tape parade. We stood impatiently in lines to whisper our fondest wishes, and paid handsomely for a few quick-printed shots. We threw glitter and oats on the lawn for his reindeer, arranged platters of our favorite cookies with hand-drawn pictures and painstakingly misspelled notes. We listened for jingle bells and searched for footprints in the snow.
This was even better than being the recipient of Santa's magic—being his accomplice, his partner in crime. Being the person who helped him give my two beautiful girls their hearts' desires, who wrapped his presents in mysterious paper and ate his cookies every Christmas Eve.
But it didn't take long before Santa lost his mojo. My ever-practical Katie did the math on Santa at six years old—and realized that there was no way in hell that he could visit so many houses in a single night. She kept working through her logic out loud, right in front of her baby sister. To help save Santa for Maggie, I had to cut my losses. And my heart just broke.
And now my baby Maggie is six, and she's saying things that make my heart drop to my knees—like that she knows that the white-whiskered man she told that she wanted a "diary for all of her secrets" wasn't the real Santa. And I realize that I'll be incredibly lucky if Santa has one more year of magic left in him.
My girls are growing up, altogether too fast. They leave a long string of "lasts" in their wake, so many that most go uncelebrated or unnoticed. The last diaper, last sippy cup, the last time I carried my Katie up the stairs—all gone and done. The outlet covers have disappeared, and the baby gates are only used to keep the dog from snarfing snacks when we have company. We watch Doctor Who, not Doc McStuffins.
It's better that so many of these lasts go unnoticed. Because the big losses—the first day of kindergarten, the last day of elementary school, the last Christmas with Santa—are hard enough. We'll pull out all the stops this year, for Santa's last hurrah. He's going to be a little more generous, a tiny bit more mysterious. We have two Elves on the Shelf, not just one. Santa's going to pen one really awesome note to two very special young ladies. And I'm going to treasure every second.
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Image: Santa hat by berna namoglu/Shutterstock.com