I was at my daughter’s house two weeks ago and faced my first snow storm in years. To occupy the girls on a no-school day, their mother decided to start decorating the house for Christmas. Full of energy and enthusiasm the little girls brought up from the basement the many boxes where reeds, trees, socks and other ornaments have been stowed at the end of the previous season.
Suddenly, we saw the nine year old grab a box and stare at the red elf inside it. The smile on her face disappeared to be replaced by a scowl.
“Mom, what is the naughty elf doing here?” Her wrists clenched on her hips, my granddaughter darted accusing glares at her mom. “Mom, you and Dad lied to us.”
My gaze flitting from mother to daughter, I tried to understand the problem.
“Oh God.” Obviously my poor daughter felt terrible.
“This elf is the one who goes to Santa Claus at night to report that we have been good or bad,” the seven year old explained with a pout. “We leave cookies for him and carrots for his reindeer.”
“At least we thought he was going to Santa.” The nine year old pursed her lips and pointed a finger at her Mom. “I bet Daddy has been eating the cookies and you the carrots. Right, Mom?”
Poor Mom nodded. “Let me explain.”
“No.” Nine year old ran to her room and banged the door behind her. We all followed.
“Darling,” I said to my granddaughter. “You two are very lucky girls. You have a Mom and Dad who love you very much and spoil you rotten. Many children don’t have so many toys. I never had toys like you while growing up. Just a ball, once, and my sister a doll. Dad gave us books only and no one else gave us anything.”
“Really? No toys, only books?” Both girls looked at me with pity.
Why couldn’t I have stopped at that? Unfortunately, I am a writer who always feels the need to elaborate… and mess up everything.
“Well you see, Christmas is about the birth of Baby Jesus. All the rest is a legend. A nice story like Cinderella, or the Little Mermaid, or Santa Claus. They are nice stories, but they don’t exist, of course.”
“What?” The seven year old screamed. “Santa Claus doesn’t exist? No way.” It was her turn to run to her room and bang her door.
“Oh God, I messed it.”
“Yes, Mom. You killed Santa Claus.”
It took me half an hour to try to reconcile Christmas, Santa Claus and loving Mom and Dad. I also assured my darling little one that grandma adored her and I promised that all she wrote in her letter to Santa Claus will be fulfilled by grandma and grandpa.
“So now we are big kids,” my seven year old said with her chin raised. “But I am not going to tell Kelsey and Heather the truth about Santa Clause and the naughty Elf. They are two months younger than me.”
Do your little ones still believe in Santa Claus?
CHRISTMAS HERE AND THERE: Whether you dream of love and fun, or run away from sad memories, romance is everywhere at the beach, on a cruise, or in a godforsaken
place. Three Christmas stories, full of emotion and humor. Click here for more.