It was an intricate plan, complete with several diagrams and involved string.
I watched him furiously make his plans one evening, drawing everything out, measuring distance and re-evaluating the steps needed.
I am guessing it was close to watching Einstein at work.
"What are you doing?" I finally asked when he began getting the Border collie involved.
"I'm working on a project," was his reply.
He continued with his diagram, erasing and redrawing lines when he found something didn't work.
The Border Collie wasn't quite sure what was going on, but remained steadfast in the endeavor.
"Cole, you've got twine around Pumpkin. What are you doing?"
"I'm going to catch him," he said.
"Catch who?" I asked.
"Really? How are you going to do that?"
He stood up and surveyed the preliminary execution of his plans.
"Well, I am still working on it, but I am going to leave him a note saying there's milk in the fridge, when he opens the fridge, it will trip this string, which is supposed to pull this down and take a picture," he took a breath. "I'm trying to get this little camcorder to work, but not sure how I can when it only records for a few minutes. It needs to be running a while. As you can see, I am still working on this."
He continued: "I am going to get proof Santa's real, Mama. You know? I am going to get video and photographic evidence! He is real, right?"
Ah, so that's what it was. I wondered when this day would come, I just never expected my child to come up with a plan involving video and fifth grade engineering to be involved.
"He is," I answered. "But, he stops coming when you stop believing in him."
"I know that," Cole said softly. "I still believe Mama, but I hear a lot of other kids saying he's not real. I want to prove them wrong."
Being homeschooled, I am not quite sure which kids he is referring to, other than maybe something he heard before at school. He had started questioning then but wanted to believe so he didn't pursue the issue when I told him Santa was very much real.
Now, it's me wanting him to believe just a little bit longer, to hold on to that magic that we only get to have when we are children and can believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, and other things we lose in a less sparkly and too harshly real adulthood.
I wanted him to believe in the magic of a chubby elf bringing presents and spreading goodwill, instead of the scary world we live in, where our worst fears are becoming too real.
I wanted him to hold on to this last bit of childhood as long as he could.
I can't remember when Santa stopped coming for me.
I had asked Mama if he was real, and her reply was the same as mine: "When you stop believing, he stops coming." There was no declaration of not believing, no disavowing Santa, just one year, there was no Santa.
And from then on, things were so different.
My behavior - whether good or bad-didn't determine my gifts. There was no, "You better behave if you want Santa to come."
I had to behave because it was expected of someone my age. You know, that responsible behavior befitting someone Santa didn't come visit anymore.
I missed those days, the sense of wonder, the feeling that somehow, miracles could and would happen. I tried to hold on to that feeling, but when you are an adult, it can be hard to cling to hope.
I wanted my child to hold on, and to believe as long as he could.
"You know, I think you may have some flaws in your plan," I suggested.
He scratched his head. "How so?" He had even ran through a trial run with his dad acting as Santa.
"Well, for one thing, Santa is magic."
"You can't capture him on film. He won't show up."
Cole squinted his eyes as he pondered this. "You mean like a vampire or ghost?"
"Kinda. He won't show up though. And, if he can see you when you are sleeping and watches you throughout the year, he knows you are plotting this right now. He may not come if he thinks you are questioning he is not real."
"You're killing my dreams, Mama!" Cole cried. "You're killing my dreams!"
"I am not trying to kill your dreams; I am trying to make sure Santa brings you presents this year!"
He dropped his head. "It's not that I don't believe, Mama, I want to prove to everyone else he is real. I believe. I do. But not everyone else does."
I kissed the top of his head, which now comes up to my chin. "And, sometimes, sweet boy, just the faith of one, can keep it alive for others."
Santa is scheduled to arrive this year, but the string and cameras will be put away. It may be the last year he visits our home, but I am going to try to keep the spirit alive as long as I can.
Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the e-published novel, "The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery."