Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Child Within Us

It was an annual winter tradition. Every year we packed the children into our family car and spent the day at “The North Pole at Pike’s Peak,” a year-round Christmas resort not far away. And each year they took turns on Santa’s lap while we snapped pictures.

This wasn’t any ordinary Santa, either. Maybe it was the real beard. Or maybe it was the twinkle in his eye when he talked to the kids. He came as close to the genuine Santa as anyone I can imagine. The kindly old man worked as Santa Claus at the resort all year round and, for our family at least, he was just about the real thing.

One year, after we finished with pictures, I said to him, “You must really love children.”

“Yes, I do,” he said. “And adults, too. Many adults want to sit with Santa for a picture!”

“Do you really have adults visit Santa?” I asked in amazement.

“Oh, yes,” he replied. “As a matter of fact, one day 14 of the first 20 people who came to visit Santa were adults. All of us have a child inside of us. It’s a terrible thing when you lose that.”

I think I know what he meant. Children are enthusiastic. They’ve not forgotten how to have fun. And they still feel awe and wonder and excitement.

“It’s a terrible thing when you lose that,” he said. I don’t think he meant that we are to be childish and immature - just childlike. There is a difference.

To be childlike is to be fun-loving and ready to get lost in the present. To be childlike is to be more innocent and trusting. Quicker to embrace life and love. To be childlike is to not yet be jaded by the world or too cynical about people. Those who are childlike laugh easily and often. They know there is plenty about this universe they may not understand, and that is okay. In fact, mystery is good. It fills them with awe.

My children eventually grew up and quit visiting Santa. A few years later I learned that he passed away. As it turns out, even an almost-real Santa doesn’t live forever. I had the honor of speaking at his funeral service and remembered him that day as a man who always kept his childlike sense of enthusiasm, love and joy. He was one of the youngest people I knew.

I only hope I’m that young when I’m that old.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know exactly the place to which you referred! When I was a child back in 1966, we visited there and I agree that there was something magical about the Santa there. He seemed almost real (even though I knew better).

Even after over 40 years I still have very fond memories of our visit there. I hope that another fantastic Santa has taken up the reins.

Reader from NC

Lawrence said...

"I only hope I’m that young when I’m that old."

Love that last line, Steve. It reminded me of my own 'Childlike' 95 year old grandfather.

I too, hope I am that young when I am 95.

Steve Goodier said...

I don't know who is Santa Claus there now, but what an extraordinary job when you think about it! And Larry, I'm glad you were able to remember your grandfather fondly. I truly do want to be that young if I'm ever that old.

Steve

KC Owens said...

You just described Debbie Duncan.......man I miss her! A female Santa!