Fantastic Friday: What You See

Over a year ago, I blogged about a tree that almost feel on me and my response, which was to create wood slices and paint them as gifts .

In fact, the exercise rekindled my love of painting, and I spent the year painting in my spare time (which is easier for me to do with young, loquacious kids compared to writing). This year, I made ornaments for my family (I took a shortcut and purchased wood cuts this time). As I was trying to decide what to paint for my parents, I thought of a Christmas memory that I still can’t explain.

I must have been seven or so, and my parents took me to a Santa event. The details are vague, but the gist is, there was this whole set-up where you got to go see Santa, and he handed you a gift (I’m sure parents purchased and wrapped the gifts ahead of time with our names on them). At one point, Santa was on the roof.

I don’t remember interacting with Santa or receiving my gift from him, though I know those things happened. What I remember instead is that while this all was happening, while the dressed-up Santa was climbing on the roof, I looked up, and I saw something float across the moon.

It was a full moon, or nearly so, and it was one of those humid winter nights that caused a rainbow haze around the moon. I remember looking up, thinking that the sky was more magical than the gathering at the Santa village. I knew the “Santa” on the ground was not real. But there was magic elsewhere.

And to this day, I can see in my mind what I saw that night. A sleigh pulled by reindeer flew across the moon.

Later, I asked my parents whether it was part of the set-up. My parents denied it. They hadn’t seen it. And really, how could it have been? No one else was looking up at the moon, and how could anyone have aligned a Santa and his sled with the moon? It wasn’t possible.

So, I convinced myself that I saw Santa flying across the moon. It wasn’t Christmas yet, so I assumed he was maybe doing a practice run? Trying out the sleigh? Training the reindeer?

Sure, as a grownup, I can think of several explanations. Maybe I saw a tree branch out of the corner of my eye and superimposed it with a mental image of Santa. Maybe it was just my strong imagination, the right side of my brain pummeling the left. Or maybe it was a bird, a bat, or a goose flying South for the winter.

In any case, in my mind, Santa flew across the moon that year and kept the magic of Christmas alive for years and years after. In fact, even as an adult, I have often asked my parents about that night, about what they saw (nothing) and what they think I saw (they don’t know).

This is my Polar Express-ringing-bell memory. It’s kept the magic of Christmas alive throughout the years. I remember my grandmother one year mentioning my imagination and wondering when I was going to grow up. She didn’t mean it in a bad way—like “you need to grow up.” She was just perplexed that somehow I kept a childlike sense of wonder alive for so long. She seemed to think that at some point, that magic went away.

But thinking about it now, I realize that the Santa Moon memory applies to everything. We perceive what we see. If we choose to see magic in the world, we will. If we choose to see the positive, we will. I visited Santa at a time when friends were saying Santa was fake. I looked up at the moon and found the magic I needed. My daughter tells me I am like a kid because I “do fun stuff” and “drink chocolate milk.” I think it’s just that I know where to look.

Bad things will happen, but we can control our reactions to them. We can accept, we can look for silver linings. We can look for messages from lost loved ones. We can find happiness in stressful situations and find thankfulness for what we have. On New Years, I saw many people posting on social media about bad omens, negative expectations for the year, and senses of dread. And it’s understandable, given the fact that we have been dealing with a pandemic since 2019.

In December, I changed my FitBit watch face to one of Santa flying across the moon. This surprised my husband, who knows I am much more a fan of Halloween than of Christmas. But I told him it wasn’t about Christmas: it was about magic. Each time I looked at the watch face—which featured a moving Santa flying across the moon, and which, I might add, captivated my kids countless times over the month—I was reminded to look for the magic in the world.

This Christmas, I didn’t go nuts cleaning the house. I didn’t stress about what I didn’t have or didn’t accomplish. I found enjoyment and enjoyed the things I had.It was the least stressful Christmas of adulthood.

And that is a magic all its own.

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