Merry Christmas


Raines and I had a rare minute alone. We were together, casually talking about nothing, and I knew it was time. I took a deep breath before I lost my nerve. “Raines,” I said, “we need to talk about Santa.” He froze — his whole body going still, heartbreakingly still — and then his shoulders slumped. He finally made eye contact. And it felt like the end of an era.

We’ve had a few of these, uh, life-defining moments this year. My Dad passed away last January, Mike and I are going through the (very depressing but necessary) process of making a real will, I’m almost done with my 5 years of Tamoxifen, and then this conversation with Raines. For the first time in my life, I am actually feeling like an adult. Not a very good one, mind you, but an adult nonetheless.

My conversation with Raines, though…it was hard. I knew it was time. Raines and Pax had cornered Mike over Thanksgiving and asked directly about Santa. I always thought if the kids ever asked directly, we would tell them. Or at the very least employ one of the Parent NInja-Conversation Answers: “What do you think?” “What makes you ask?”, “How would one…define…real?“, or if all else fails…the classic,”Do you really want to know?”

Mike, instead, panicked. And then lied. Once he fessed up, “Babe!! They had me cornered!! What was I supposed to do???,” we weren’t really sure where to go from there. We never lie to our kids — not about the little stuff (“We need to go home because if Mommy spends one more second at this playground SHE WILL FREAK OUT”) nor about the big stuff (oh hey, cancer diagnosis). So this one was tough. But once I overheard Raines and his friends arguing: “RAINES! SANTA IS YOUR PARENTS!!” to which he replied, “My Dad said [somethingsomething I couldn’t hear] — AND MY DAD WOULD NEVER LIE TO ME,” I knew it was time.

So my giant baby, (which is how I see him — his body too big for his little self) sat there with his shoulders slumped, thinking. He looked back up at me. “OK” he said. “I know the Easter Bunny isn’t real then either, but Mom? Remember when Sophia lost her tooth? Her Mom had a picture of the tooth fairy!” He looked at me, his eyes hopeful. “How would she get a picture if the tooth fairy wasn’t real?”

“It was an app, Baby. Her Mom used an app that adds the tooth fairy into the photo.” Oh, God. This was going badly.

“So you and Dad and everyone IN THE WORLD just…lies??” Suddenly he straightened up and looked directly in my eyes. “Mom?” he said, so quietly that I almost missed it. “Leprechauns?”

My heart stopped for what felt like a whole minute. Raines and his brother, for years, have built these elaborate leprechaun traps. They’ve lain in wait, they’ve checked them daily — they’ve even convinced themselves (most years) that they had one that got away! I had forgotten about the leprechauns. Not able to speak, I just shook my head.

He turned away from me then. I went over and put my arms around my boy, my sweet baby boy. I rubbed his back, and started whispering about how this….This is one of the world’s greatest secrets. And how he is now a part of that secret. And his job, just like ours, is to help make magic for other little kids.

Raines lifted his head off my shoulder and looked me in the eyes. “I’m OK, Mom” he said, pushing my hair off my face, like he often does in these weird role-reversal moments he’s been doing his whole life. Like he’s comforting me. “It’s just…it was really cool to think there was magic like that in this world.”

And that’s kind of the thing, isn’t it? In this world that is ultimately so tough, so full of sadness and hardship and injustice…it’s comforting to think that it also holds a little magic, too. Leave it to Raines to cut right to the heart of the matter.

“Raines,” I said. “The magic is there. It’s just a different kind of magic. It’s the kind of magic I feel when I look at you. I have no idea how I got so lucky, buddy, how I got so lucky to be your mom. But it feels…magical.”

He gave me a small grin. “Or like when we’re doing something and it feels like Bapa is there?” he asked.  Bapa is his name for my Dad. “Because I think sometimes he’s there, Mom.”

“Yes baby,” I said. Sometimes I feel him, too. Real magic is exactly like that.

So we’re wishing you all a little magic today. May yours come in the form of a giant snuggle, or a cup of piping hot coffee, the kind with the steam curling up. Personally, I’m hoping for fresh snow, a good book, and a long walk with the boys where they jump and run and breathe and laugh and live. And then we’ll come inside, and call my mom and sister and talk a little about Dad, and then we’ll call my brother and not talk about Dad, but in both cases there will be sweetness and joy and laughter and sadness, all mixed up together.

And that? Feels like magic.

Merry Christmas, Everyone.



  1. Oh gosh, yes, I know exactly about this conversation….my SIX year old is waaay too young to not believe but, sigh, maybe that’s just what happens when the littles are the younger siblings to the bigs. And the loss of magic? That’s the thing that kills me the most. BUT I love what you said and that is what I tell my kids, too. That it is still there, and that by sending your own bits of love and, yes “magic” into the world, we are all making it a more wonderful place. ❤️Merry Christmas to you and yours. P.S. This marks 10 years cancer-free for me. Ten years ago I was wrapping up a very gnarly chemo session—the pics of me from that year show a ghostly pale and sick Mama—but MAN wasn’t I (aren’t I!!) glad to be alive. It’s all a gift, all of it, even the hard conversations. ❤️

  2. We had this conversation with our ten year old this year too. It’s a different Christmas and different magic.

    I’m so happy for you to be close to the finish line with tamoxifen. Now THAT stuff is magic. Just started mine.


  3. Heart achingly beautiful. Thanks for sharing these moments with us. I love reading this site because you all keep it so real. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  4. My husband and I argue over when it’s time to tell our 10-yr old son. I thought he had overheard me once, but no. I found out today he still believes. And I am thankful. The funniest part is that I’m Jewish… so it’s not a “thing” for me. But guess what… it obviously is. Santa represents all the magic in the world and innocence and I’m so happy Raines and you had that conversation. I hope it goes as well for me and Paxton when it’s time. Merry Christmas!

  5. Oh my goodness. My eyes filled with tears while reading your sweet story. Shana- your story with your beautiful child brings me back 20 years ago when I had that “talk” with my daughter. I, too, am a breast cancer survivor, five years on tamoxifen and 14 years cancer free. I wish you and your family a lifetime of magic, of “jumping, laughing, breathing, and living.”

  6. What a beautiful post!! I love so much about your blog, the fashion and style ideas, the community you’ve built that so many of us feel a part of, but what I really Love are your stories, wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season!

  7. We still hang mint in our house for the fairies, because even though we say that they’re not real, it’s so much fun to pretend that they are. I say build those leprechaun traps. We talked about how traditionally, fairies and things like that pop up in cultures all over the world, and things that pop up all over the world independently from each other are fascinating to me. Who knows?! This world needs a little belief in magic.

  8. So how are you handling this now with concern to Pax? My boys are 1 year younger than both of yours and I creepily end up following your footsteps. But I keep feeling like it has both boys since they are so close and I can see this would be a heavy ‘secret’. But on the other hand, is it a great chance for the older one to try out the magic?

  9. In tears reading this because I have a sweet nine (almost 10) year old boy who looks (hello long blonde curly hair 🙂 and sounds a lot like Raines. I know this was probably the last year of his really believing in Santa, and it makes me sad. I love what you said about magic and will use it to inform our conversation when the time comes.

  10. This moved me to tears, Shana. There is magic in the world if we look for it. And to quote badly from my favorite book, “every time a baby laughs for the first time, a fairy is born.”

  11. You need to get a book called The Wonderful Truth About Santa! It’s so lovely and the perfect way to have a conversation about Santa and break the news. Both of my kids, 5 and 8, are in on the truth about Santa and there was no upset about it all. In fact, they seem to love being in on it. And it’s a good way to reiterate to them that they can’t spoil the “spark” of Santa for someone else until that person is ready to hear about it from someone they love (I was worried as a non-Santa family that they would spoil it for others, but that hasn’t been the case at all).

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