Z's always skeptical about everything; he asks tons of questions that really make you think and scramble around for answers. The topic of Santa has been no different. In fact, he's probably asked more questions about him than most anything. He, like most kids, notices the differences in the book Santas, mall Santas and any other thing wearing a Santa suit (like the Cincinatti bum wearing a filthy Santa suit, cut off at the knees, in Fountain Square in August. We've always just chalked these differences up to the fact that Santa is NOT God and he can't be all places at once so he needs helpers.
We took a magical trip to the remodeled Opryland Hotel in Nashville for Thanksgiving. It looks marvelous by the way, after such a devastating flood early this year. We wanted to celebrate the end of fall portrait season and the beginning of Christmas season in style. We were not disappointed; that places stops at nothing to get you into the Christmas spirit! From dazzling light and fountain shows, special cookies and stories with Mrs. Claus, amazing ICE! exhibit and SNOW! with live reindeer, giant nativity display...well it was just what we needed to get into the Christmas mood. The final day of our visit, we went to see Santa so Z could tell him what he wanted for Christmas. We were about 10th in line and I kept telling Z I thought this could be the real Santa...real beard, real twinkle in his eye...Mrs. Claus reading books close by. He wasn't convinced at all and kept telling me no he's not. Until he sat on the old man's lap. He stared deep into Santa's eyes...told him exactly what he wanted -- a black and orange bike with training wheels, a real Woody and real Buzz Lightyear. They had a great conversation about how the toys in the move aren't "real," but Santa felt certain he could get some that were almost real.
Then Z threw him a curve ball...he mentioned Jack. Jack is the name Z gave his Elf on a Shelf, who this year had to appear in Nashville. On this last day in town, Jack had landed in Z's suitcase so he could come back to Kentucky with us. I stood there thinking "sheesh, that's it, we're done; it's over, Santa's gonna blow it because he doesn't know about Jack."
But to my surprise, here's how that conversation went.
Z: you know, Jack's in my suitcase
Santa: Oh he is? Why do you suppose he's in there?
Me (sweating and biting my lip in the background)
Z: because he wants to come back to Kentucky with us.
Santa: Oh, I see
Me: Z, Santa may not know that you've given him the name Jack.
Santa: Oh yes, I know all about Jack.
Z: you do?
Santa: yes, and he flies back to the North Pole each night while you're sleeping to tell me about your day.
Z: (eyes huge and staring at Santa in disbelief)
Santa: Is Jack behaving himself.
Z: umm, yeah
Santa: well, that's good. If he starts to cause any trouble, I want you to let me know, okay?
Z: okay, I WILL
Santa then said some other junk that I didn't hear because I was just so impressed at how he handled that, I could no longer think.
Z hugged Santa tight and then walked toward his now glassy-eye mommy and said he had to tell me a secret. While waiting for the people to process the photos, he whispered in my ear "I just need to tell you mommy, that IS the real Santa."
Oh and you know what? Z got his bike and the woody and buzz :) I think that dude in Nashville bought us at least two more years of solid Santa belief!