Finding Santa.

Prior to making this discovery, we spent years standing in line for hours at the local mall and paid insane fees for a thumb drive with photos. Long lines and impatient kids meant by the time it was our turn to see Santa, their adorable outfits and hair were completely disheveled. I stood nearby cemented by the armfuls of coats and an overflowing diaper bag filled with toys and apple puffs, sweating. When it was time for a photo, they wiggled and cried. I will always cherish these photos, but we were so busy getting the perfect shot that there was never time to stop and take in the moment.

Last year during the pandemic, visits with Santa were happening again, but we weren’t in any hurry to make an appointment for a photo. We ended up taking a trip to Detroit in December, and stumbled upon the cutest indoor North Pole village where you could walk through a winter wonderland, drop a letter to Santa, and six feet away for a photo with Santa. There was an pond-sized synthetic skating rink in the middle covered with flakes of delicate snow. A young girl twirled and jumped down the middle. Rows of twinkling evergreen trees lined the path to a life-sized gingerbread house. An orange fire crackled inside.

Last year was the first year that finding Santa felt like magic to them. It was as if the kids walked through a wooden door and into a magical place. It was the best make-up visit we could have given to them the year after 2020, a year where there was no visit to Santa.

This year, we aren’t exactly sure where the kids stand with Santa and their beliefs. I do know they believe that Christmas as a special time, and they look forward to our family traditions like baking peanut butter blossom cookies on Christmas Eve, and reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas in new pjs before bed, face-timing with family in Chicago, and visiting with family and friends near home.

We loved our discovery so much last year that we went back to Detroit today. The magic in finding Santa was still very much alive within them. My wish is that they hang on to that feeling as long as they can. If they can, I will too.