For a kid, the month of December might as well be 300 days long. Decorating a tree in your living room, watching as giant toy-filled bags are hauled into the house, seeing something other than chocolate chip cookies appear from the oven, and knowing that parents are ingesting a few more doses of Motrin than usual. The anticipation of Christmas presents paired together with two full weeks off from school is a lot to handle, and if it weren't for the fact that Santa knows when they're being naughty, all hell would break loose. I constantly remind the kids that I can give Santa an update about the bad behavior, next time I see him at the mall.
In the past, we've visited Santa only a few times. The boys have never cared for wasting an entire day at the mall to wait in a long line with whiny overdressed kids, and have preferred to use the letter-writing approach instead. Zoe has an obvious distrust of the guy, always keeps her distance, and after mumbling her demands, prefers to remain mute. Therefore, Zach has been kind enough to include her requests in his letters.
Eventually, the sad day arrives when the truth about Santa is discovered, and the letter writing stops. It's the letters toward the end of the belief period that have given me the best glimpse into Zach's sense of humor and logic. This is the letter he wrote when he was nine:
Dear Santa Claus,It must be hard to get everything without attracting too much attention. I hope this isn't too hard. I want the game "Stay Alive!" There is probably a 99.9999% chance of adults hearing or seeing you flying by (I never do). How many trips do you take back to your workshop? Where is it anyway? How do you travel all over the world, walk through everyone's house, and eat about ten to the billionth power in one night? You probably have a little more time with a different time everywhere. I think it is the same time everywhere you go. If that's true, you travel west.There is one more thing. My sister, Zoe, wants a "Weeble Castle." Can you do it? Thank you! I hope you aren't sick or anything!Your friend, Zachary Adkins
Zach has always understood things very literally and logically. It would have been easy to just let his belief in Santa fade without going through the effort of convincing him otherwise, but that wouldn't have been much fun. Instead of answering his doubts and questions with the truth, Doug wrote a four page letter in return, posing as Mr. Claus. He answered his question about the cookie consumption using the term "cookie black hole." He praised Zach's theory of traveling west, but explained that he "actually travels at .99999% of the speed of light by using a quantum field generator." And in order to prevent being seen, he "uses metamaterials in the construction of my sleigh, my red suit, bag, and even woven into my reindeers' fur." Zach was completely convinced that Santa was real, because he had the letter to prove it.
Doug ended the letter with the best paragraph of all:
Someone once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. In other words, something really complicated--like a quantum gravitational field generator--seems magical to those who don't know how it works. It's good to be skeptical--to question things. But I hope that in time you'll also discover that with a little ingenuity, anything is possible, including making invisible sleighs fly and causing ten to the billionth power of cookies to disappear.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, Santa makes about 210 million trips back to the workshop, on average. And that year was the last Christmas that all three kids still believed in Santa Claus.