Patrick loved Christmas. In fact, it was looking at the Christmas lights while driving home from Geneva’s house in 1993 that prompted his first sentence. I was pointing out the Christmas lights on the houses driving home. His first sentence was, “No home Mommy, more ‘yights’ pease”. He spoke that sentence from his car seat as we pulled into the drive way, he was not quite 18 months old. Needless to say, I backed out of the driveway and took him around the neighborhood to see more ‘yights’.
Finding out the truth about Santa was a very painful experience for Patrick. He was in fourth grade and I think he’d suspected for a while, but one afternoon after school he asked me if Santa was real. I gave him the speech about how the Christmas magic is in your heart and he was devastated. He marched into the living room and started to pluck all of his Santa ornaments from the Christmas tree. I asked him what he was doing. With tears in his eyes he said, “It’s all a big lie.” I put my hand on his to stop him removing the ornaments and asked him to come with me into the kitchen.
With tears in our eyes, I told him that he couldn’t do that. Now that he knew, it was his job to keep the Christmas magic for Brendan, who was only three at the time. Patrick promised to help keep the secret and agreed to put his Santa ornaments back on the tree.
A little while later I found him laying under the Christmas tree, looking up into the tree with tears filling his eyes. He said, “But Mom, the wrapping paper that the Santa gifts are in is always different than the paper on the gifts from you and Dad.” I explained that I had rolls of wrapping paper and tags in the crawl space, just for the Santa gifts. I could see him grow even sadder. He so wanted to believe in the magic of Christmas.
For a few years, we kept the magic alive for Brendan. Patrick took that job very seriously. Then Emily joined our family and we had more years of Santa magic, as both boys conspired to make Santa real for Emily. We had a wonderful 9 1/2 years together as a complete family. They are Christmases that will live in my memory forever. They were truly enchanted times.
As I have learned about the overexcitabilities that often co-exist with giftedness, I keep thinking about this exchange with Patrick about Santa. All kids are sad when they learn the truth about Santa, but this was a really big deal for Patrick. His belief was shattered and he didn’t know how to handle the situation. The emotional intensity that was part of the fiber of his being made facing this reality very hard for him.
I know these intensities, as I have them too. So often I am disappointed when a situation is not what I had hoped it would be. I can see all the possibilities with such clarity that it makes them almost real, but they are not. And when reality sets in, it can be so very disappointing that I can’t keep my emotions in check. This is the plight of many who I know and love, family and friends who feel so deeply and fully and are often disappointed by the world we live in. It is a blessing and a curse.
As I was preparing to write this blog, I searched Christmas photos of Patrick. Every single one I found shows this intensity, even in 2010 when I had to bribe him to put his ornaments on the tree with gourmet chocolate covered pretzels. Like I said, Patrick really loved Christmas.
Since he left us in 2011, I have not been able to write the family holiday newsletter. Perhaps we can chalk that up to my own emotional sensitivities. My world is no longer simple enough to summarize neatly on a single sheet of paper with tidy accomplishments and photos for each family member. I haven’t even tried.
So this year, this blog will suffice. Below are a selection of images from Patrick’s teen years that show the sweet intensity and love for Christmas that I will cherish always.
And this one from the Christmas parade is perhaps my favorite, those wide blue eyes in absolute delight with the wonder of Christmas.