An unsolicited submission from one among you that made me cry, and who wishes to remain anonymous.

My older daughter must have been seven or eight when she asked me to tell her the truth about Santa.

Truth is a dangerous thing as we all know. As Terry Pratchett says about the not-really-Santa of the Discworld:


"So we can believe the big ones?"


And lying was a thing I did not want to do. So I told her that I would provide the absolute truth about Santa on our annual trip to meet her Grandparents in New York.

Every year we would go to the outrageous Rockefeller Center Christmas Special that is all money and glitter and then live camels on stage for the real Jesus feeling at the end. I admit it was fun. We then went to one family play as well.

Yes, we are very lucky.

If you have gone to one of those plays then you know that at the end the ushers offer some of the letters sent to the New York Times but not chosen by the New York Times to support. I know that it is not intentionally cruel. But there are so many.

There are so many letters. We took one back, and opened it. There was a barely teenager who wanted cool tennis shoes. There was a small girl, I believe 4t, who wanted a pretty Christmas dress. A and I shopped together, the two of us. We spent serious time in Footlocker before deciding on a truly fabulous shoe with the name of the most gorgeous basketball player in my lifetime on the side. The sales worker assured us that this was *the shoe* for the stylish just-now-a teenager. It was all about the brand. Then the dress. We thought about velvet blue with white teddy-bear fur trim. But a Christmas dress was what was wanted, so we went with red brocade with lace. We guessed the matching shoe size, and matching tights. I can not remember if we bought the muff or the hat. Muffs are so fun. There are highly underrated accessories for sheer fun.

We took the gifts back to the theater as instructed. The person opening the door was so charming, and so taken by the outfit she took us to see the manager as exemplars for the gifting program.

Then we went home.

Christmas morning I whispered to her as she opened her own gifts, "And now YOU are Santa. You have met the real Santa. It is a vast conspiracy of kindness." We talked about how she knew she would have gifts under the tree, but many people do not. Discussing the joy of that anonymous mother — giving her children what they wanted — led to the discussion of the moms whose letters of hope went unanswered.

We had to stop going to plays. They were confusing to first my father then my mom as dementia took them. We stopped going to New York two years later, so the younger sibling never was able to share that experience.

Instead, when the younger came home from second grade saying there was a boy who said Santa was not real, my older child nodded decisively, "There is a Santa. I have met Santa. Next year, I will introduce you." Then one weekend the next year, I dropped them off together at the Mall with an Angel Tree. (Not the Angel Tree for children with one parent in prison, but one sponsored by the local shelter.

That Christmas morning, we all became coconspirators.

As a small family of adults, we have been matching each gift to each other with a donation of equivalent size. It is more likely to be than Toys for Tots, and includes environmental charities as much as local Boys & Girls Clubs. This year it is the Senate race in Georgia.

We are still part of the conspiracy. And in 2020 that conspiracy is desperately needed.

The kindness is the point.


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