I’ll be the first to admit: I probably believed in Santa Claus longer than I should have, and longer than most children do. See, I have this hope, even now as an adult, that magic actually exists. Like, proper magic. Unicorns, leprechauns, magic wands, super powers – like the ability to fly or become invisible, magic carpets – you name it. Any day now I expect my Hogwarts letter to come through. Those whacky owls must’ve been misdelivering it for the past 24 years… It’ll be a little awkward to be going to school with a bunch of 11-year-olds, but I’ll take it.
I’ve always had this fervent hope that there is more to life than meets the eye. And I don’t “just” mean an afterlife or some sort of divine but obscure power. I mean Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Dumbledore, toffee trees.
My childhood fantasies by no way limited themselves to the good stuff, by the way. I swore I saw huldra waiting for me behind a tree outside my bedroom window, waiting to lure me into the underworld where I’d be lost forever – never mind that huldra traditionally lured men. I also suffered, amongst many other things, from a bad case of vampires-under-my-bed-so-I-can’t-sleep-itis. Oddly enough I was always comforted when mum told me that if I saw any vampires I just had to tell her and she’d come bite them in their back foot… So, I’ve always had a very rich fantasy life and odd coping mechanisms.
My point is that, much like Mulder, I want to believe…
I don’t remember exactly what age I was but I’m pretty sure we were home for the holidays from England, so I’m going to guess 9-10. I was having a day out with Dad. I remember literally nothing else of this day except the following conversation.
Scene: We’re walking down a shopping street on a dark, Norwegian, December afternoon. It’s probably snowing. People are bustling here and there with packages under their arms, because it’s almost Christmas. Enticing lights shine through all the shop windows around us. There’s little mechanical gnomes in Santa hats and fake snow in the display windows.
Dad: Since you’re old enough now to know that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, I thought we could just go to a shop and you can pick out a Christmas gift. Does that sound alright?
In this moment, a lot of things happen. It’s as if the moment expands and time momentarily halts its progress. The clocks stop ticking, the snow freezes in mid-air, the mechanical gnome in the window display next to me is no longer moving his ladle up and down between his mouth and the pot of porridge. I realise I have to stop clinging to my last desperate hope that Santa Claus actually exists and that it’s only a coincidence that my grandfather always has to walk the dog right before Santa arrives and ends up missing him every year. And more than that, I see my father. I see, somehow, that he is a poor, lonely man, trying to make up for lost time with his daughter, trying to do something nice. And I know what he what he needs me to say.
Me: *swallows hard* Yes, absolutely. That would be lovely.