The house is unusually quiet at 5:52am. I have the warmth of my father’s writing room all to myself while the family sleeps.
By now I’ve learned the workings of this big coffee maker and have two pots ready for when the aunts, uncles and grandparents wake. Last night was the convergence of relatives while children danced in stocking feet.
After the Christmas cookies had worn off and the kids were soundly sleeping, the grown-ups gathered around the fire under the clearest sky of stars. Owls screeched and coyotes yipped to each other in distant canyons.
In the midst of the wildlife, Santa was still in our midst. The holidays pull stories of our youth and we shared our memories of his bounty and the day we learned there really wasn’t a red suit and sleigh.
Never having wanted to tell my son a lie, I have not perpetuated the Santa myth. Jeb’s known the story, but I’ve never told him, absolutely, that Santa was real.
So when he asked me about 3 years ago to know the truth, I did the double-check “do you really want to know?”
“Do you think Santa is real?”
“Who do you think brings presents to the kids?”
I couldn’t bring myself to speak the word “yes”, somehow not wanting to completely squelch all sense of the mysterious. But I nodded and smiled.
I talk to a few adults about the time they learned the truth about Santa, and on more than one occasion someone has said it all happened at once.
“I learned about Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and sex all about the same time.”
Maybe it’s a rite of passage around Jeb’s age of eight. Learning that some of the stories you’ve been told are fables, coupled with the revelation that there are sacred secrets of life you never knew.
He wants to know the whole truth but he longs for magic.
And isn’t this true for most of us?
On this quiet morning I reach to my father’s bookshelf for a little poetic direction. Find T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and flip to a page like a divination. I find a passage from “East Coker” that speaks of the unfolding.
I sit here and seek a sentence of my own to elaborate on these words, but how can I? But I’ve got to end this post somehow. So here’s how I try…
There’s a place where words end and experience speaks volumes.
Life awaits our presence here.
In a place of magic. Where we can feel what’s real.
“Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.”
excerpt from “East Coker”