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On Magic and Mysteries

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is Anything Previously Written. And there's still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin!

I first published this piece eight years ago!

So if it seems dated or not like the ME you know now, that’s why. That said, I’m not really changing anything about it, except for formatting, because I apparently didn’t know how to do that when I started my blog! This post was written when Scarlet was just a baby, and Des wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye! Or a “ghost baby” as he morbidly calls life before birth. And that’s somewhat relevant to this post. I shall stop rambling and let this post do the speaking now. It’s a good one.


Our pediatrician’s office has two waiting rooms – a well patient area and a sick patient area. Recently I had the misfortune to be quarantined in the sick patient area with Scarlet since a nasty virus lingered longer than we were comfortable with. Two adorable blonde sisters waited with us, using the time to question me (and Scarlet) about Santa Claus and whether or not I’d ever seen or heard him and whether or not Scarlet has ever seen or heard him. (She hasn’t) As I played along and tried to answer as best as I could, I noticed that their mother was smiling along and not shooting me warning or apologetic glances. She probably knew I wouldn’t spoil her daughters’ belief in Santa Claus, however, it got me thinking how easy it would be for someone to snatch away years of a family’s beliefs and stories in an instant. How strong are the foundations of the stories we tell our children about magic and religion? Are our own beliefs clear enough to pass down to our children?

I found out the truth about Santa Claus, funnily enough, in the Hebrew school parking lot where we used to have to wait in a traffic jam until all of the kids were safely out of school and in cars. My mom and I had some time to kill and somehow that subject came up. I must have been doubting my beliefs during that time, and I know my older brother and sister had found out before me and had kept the stories alive for me and our younger two siblings. I think my mom explained it well then.

“It’s not that I’m going to tell you that Santa is not real. I believe there really was a good man who brought gifts and whose legend and spirit live on. I believe very much in the spirit of Christmas. And, I also believe in Santa Claus…but …Dad and I fill your stockings.” That actually made perfect sense to me and did not break my heart. It seemed to fit right in with my family’s scattered but present beliefs.

I was raised primarily Jewish but with a tinge of earth-based spirituality – Wiccan/Pagan, etc. We also celebrated Christian holidays but more for the spirit of giving and the fun of Christmas stockings and Easter egg hunts, and not at all for the religious meaning. I went through Hebrew school, a Bat Mitzvah and even a Torah Confirmation at 15. After that, my family dropped out of the temple. It was expensive and we questioned organized religion to begin with. And then we scattered into our own families, ready to start our own traditions or keep the old ones going. What we had then worked for us but it won’t work exactly like it did for my family now. Scarlet is 3/4 Jewish and 1/4 Christian by birth only. Will we be able to find our own solutions/explanations to the questions she will one day ask us about religion and spirituality?

It’s a delicate subject in my house, and in many households, but my husband thinks I’m an atheist and I don’t think I am. I guess that means I’m right. I think I both thoughtfully and thoughtlessly question the barrage of information and stories that sound conveniently like fairy tales (or horror stories) to me. I’m undecided. I can’t tell Scarlet that Santa Claus is fake but that everything she learns in temple or church is real. Many parents can but I don’t necessarily feel right about it.

What can I tell her? How can I pass on my murky and confused background? How can I give her something solid when I don’t have any of the answers? What I do know is the powerful chill I have felt hearing a congregation sing. The joy of singing Hebrew to 200+ whose faces are lit with filtered sunlight through a stained glass window. What I know is that we’ll make our own rock n’ roll Passover Seders and eat apples and honey with her on Rosh Hashanah. I know I have prayed before and that my prayers were answered. Maybe someone was listening. I know that I’ve had a lifetime of truly spiritual and magical moments, each one imploring me to believe, even when I think I can’t anymore. And it happens so often that a little voice inside me says each time, “What about now? You’re crazy not to believe after all of this.” Temple. Church. Somewhere else.

It all means something to nearly everyone and everything to someone.

What I want to tell her is that there is a magic and light in all of us and it propels us to do great things. Whether the source of that magic and light is religious, earth-based spiritual, or even self-caused doesn’t necessarily matter. What matters is that it’s there and it’s powerful and many of us have seen and felt it. And many of us have and will go on to do great things.

I still believe…in something. Is that specific enough to tell her? Are my beliefs enough?

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is Anything Previously Written. And there’s still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin: HERE. What’s your past post?

What would you say?

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  1. Love this and think quite frankly your answer is perfect, my friend. And like you I also do believe in something here, as well. And for that I am eternally grateful 🙂

  2. I absolutely love your Mother’s answer to Santa! My son is 27. He still believes and I don’t think he’d believe it if anyone told him otherwise.

  3. I can’t believe you’ve been blogging for 8 years. I think I’ve been blogging for about 5 and it feels like a lifetime. LOL Ghost Baby… is that anything like the movie Ghost Dad, I loved that movie. I love this peek into your past, I can’t believe you remember so much. I think my parents told us there was no Santa Claus but did it in a way where we still appreciated and enjoyed excitement of it all. I grew up in the church but ever since I left home I have been so forth coming with my religious beliefs. It’s cooler to be spiritual rather than religious. But after my last break up I decided to be truthful, so when the guy I was dating asked me if I was religious 1 month after meet me I told him the truth. I told him yes I believe and I’m not ashamed. Can you believe he is religious too and that was a deal breaker! It feels so good to be honest with the man I love and it’s also brought us closer. All that to say I think honesty is always the best policy even when you don’t know what the outcome is going to be.

  4. Your mom handled that beautifully! I think I blogged about my response. I believe it started with the tooth fairy and opened up Pandora’s box. I think my answer was ultimately heartbreaking because I wasn’t prepared for the question or the answer. 🙁 BTW – sweet coincidences I have music on and Stevie Wonder’s If It’s Magic was playing for part of me reading your post. Perfect! “If it’s magic, why can’t it be everlasting….”

    P.S. Once upon a time I wrote in one giant paragraph on the blog. Some of them I’ve fixed some still work “as is” – kinda like breathless reading/writing experience.

  5. I’m so glad to have read this today because I didn’t know you back then and it’s a great story and message. Tucker totally and completely believes in Santa and leprechauns and all of it. He’d argue with you if you told him otherwise. I’m not sure how long to keep going with it, but it works for now. And as far as religion and self, and earth-based energy, I definitely believe that we’re all light and good. <3

  6. I love how your mother told you about Santa in a careful and caring way so you wouldn’t feel hurt in learning the truth. I’m very sure that Scarlet was able to figure out the answers to many of your questions from 8 years ago all by herself. Now she and Des are able to reach down and bring out that magic and light deep down inside themselves by following the examples of their parents and grandparents. I want to wish you Happy Passover🔯 and Happy Easter✝🐇 to everyone in your family Tamara, and to all of your blog readers too!

  7. It is so interesting to learn the stage someone is in regarding religion or spiritual beliefs. I spent a lot of years reading, talking to others, attending different churches, considering the religious backgrounds of relatives, praying, etc. before “settling in.”
    As for Santa Claus, I knew at a very young age, that it wasn’t really Santa Claus who brought the gifts, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the spirit of the season.
    I love the photo of the cow with the “questioning” look on its face. 🙂

  8. It all means something to nearly everyone and everything to someone.
    Like this line a lot.
    I suspect a lot of discord (within and between others) could be avoided by simply acknowledging this simple observation. (With the caveat, that understanding another’s beliefs is not the most important thing; acknowledging them is)….imo

  9. Beliefs can be such tangled things. I never believed in Santa Claus, but I’ve never that as a loss because I believe in the spirit of Christmas. I believe in forces outside of our control. I believe there is beauty in the world even when we cannot see it 🙂

  10. This is such a lovely post. I believe in magic too, and that’s what I explain to my kids. There is magic or the spirit of magic in the world, and that’s a beautiful thing, always.

  11. I just love reading your old stuff, and I love that you’re not taking that magic away from the kids. There would always be that magic and it’s something that will live with them, along with the memories for years to come.

  12. Nice to learn these things from your past, Tamara! I believe in the amazing universe. That’s more than enough to fill me with wonderment. To know that what started in the sun, formed a planet, developed life, and evolved eyes that can look back at where we came from – awesome!

  13. Belief is such a personal thing and I think that children can see when we believe something that may not be tangible and easy to describe. I was raised as one religion and have changed since I became an adult. I think that most spiritualities and religions have similar basis.

  14. Hi Tamara, reading back on old blog posts can be a little unnerving. I never sat down and told my children that Father Christmas doesn’t exist and when they asked my answer was always he exists in the magic of Christmas, which they seemed content with. As for other beliefs, I’ve encouraged them to learn about other peoples beliefs and let them make up their own minds. I think that’s all we can do.


  15. Oh this is lovely. I believe in magic. Some things we just can’t explain, but we feel them, and so magic is a good word to use to describe it. I think your kids will be just fine 🙂

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