The girl was so angry. But she didn't know who she was more upset with, Santa for not being real… her mother for finally admitting it… or herself for having fallen for that big fat - ho, ho, ho - lie in the first place.
Now, on Saturday the 21st, she was feeling mad again because her brother, Nick, still believed and even though it was sort of fun leading him on or saying "Now, Nick, be good because you know Santa won't bring you anything if you hit me," she had sworn to her mom under pain of death that she would not say a word about what she knew in front of him. So, alone in her room, it was pure agony to remember that this year would be different. HOW COULD THEY DO THIS TO HER?
The cookies and milk, gone in the morning, a few crumbs left, or more if Santa was particularly full or in a hurry…
The letter explaining what it was she really wanted, hard to decide when there's just so darn much…
The waiting up, willing your eyes to stay open and your ears to stay tuned because this time you were determined to not fall asleep so you could once and for all catch the speedy guy in the middle of his act…
Now, all things of the past.
So, what's the point? What's the point of Christmas this year, she whined to herself.
Sure, your parents, the ones who probably got you all that stuff to begin with, will get you plenty again, even if just to make you feel better, somehow.
But, where's the excitement in that? Heck, you can always tell them what you want, but the thing is they might not get it for you. That was the cool part, you always had a chance with Santa. And you didn't have to listen to why nots, too expensives, or any of that. It was just a direct line, from you, the kid, to him, the KING of presents.
Then, giving herself up slowly to the flitting lights and shadows of the moving t.v. screen, the girl finally stopped thinking about it for a while.
* * *
At the universal North Pole, Roena, looking more than a little distressed, was saying to Loreano:
"Sometimes it makes me so mad that we have to lie to those kids. Look! Here's another list of children who are having serious trouble with being told."
"Now, now, you know the rule, 10 years old and that's the top limit. Some of them are lucky to remain unsure for the last couple years, or to convince everyone else that they have no suspicions. But by age 10 all that stops."
"Yes, I know that it has to be done, but I just feel so badly for them. Why can't we just tell them who Santa is? Why do they have to figure that out for themselves?"
"Were you sleeping during all ten classes of Santa-Ethics 101? If we told them, or even worse, let them still believe in Santa, until, say, 22 years-old or something, they might never do anything on their own. They might never learn what gift-giving is really all about or what the true gifts really are."
"But do they learn this way? Some are so disappointed that very first year, they can't be open to anything." Roena was thinking how she would feel if she lost her faith in the spirit of the holiday, and she shivered, just at the thought.
"Oh, most of them get over it," the more logical of the two was explaining. "They get bored with feeling left out so they start to make gifts, wrap presents, bake cookies and even become friendly to relatives they never paid attention to before. They start to appreciate the real meaning of giving. And only when they do, do they begin to see."
* * *
On the 22nd the girl's house was aglow with lights. She and her brother, who was actually cooperative for a change, had put all of the ornaments on the tree just after Thanksgiving and now she was putting the gifts for her teacher, mom and dad underneath. She had even wrapped up some of Nick's toys - ones he had lost behind the t.v. and under the beds and couches - and put a pretty green striped bow on the box because she knew it was his favorite color.
She was beginning to feel a little better about this Santa thing, because Christmas wasn't a total wash out after all. It was actually fun to know that you know something that someone else doesn't know so you think up more stuff to wrap so that they know less and less… well, something like that, anyway.
And as it got closer to Christmas Eve, she realized she wasn't angry… or sad… or disappointed… any longer. And on that night, while helping Nick get the cookies ready on "Santa's" Christmas plate and pouring the milk into the green-and-red holly etched glass, she could have sworn she heard a sound on the roof.
"Nick, get into bed," she counseled. "Santa won't come until you're fast asleep."
"How do you know, Kristen?"
"Because I used to stay up and he never, ever came while I waited."
"Oh," responded her little brother resignedly.
* * *
Roena and Loreano were now busy with all the gifts. They sang and laughed while they wrapped the small bright boxes of light.
Each box glowed in a different blend of color, some rainbow-like and others the multi-shaded hues of a single brilliant tone. There were green ones… purple/orchid ones… pink, pearly ones… and so on and on. All different, and each one just as beautiful as the other.
All of them would be gently guided to the Earth, then float above the houses… then drop into the chimneys… or even slide through the tiniest crack in a wall, window or door.
And wherever they landed, there would be magic.
* * *
Kristen's mom and dad had let her stay up later than usual that Christmas Eve, and eventually she fell asleep on the couch during the movie they were watching.
That's when she heard it again, something thudding on the roof.
Getting up, still groggy, she noticed a strange glow and went into the other room to see if the Christmas tree was turned off. Hmm, it wasn't the tree. Then what was it?
Standing at the parlor window she saw them: Dozens of sparks of radiant light… all of different colors… creating a vast rainbow dance in the sky. So beautiful, so soft and so peaceful, they swirled and twirled in the air, and then landed on the ground and on the rooftops of the houses. Once in a while, a single light would make its way inside a house and for a moment, just a quick moment, that house would blush with its specially tinted hue.
Then one light was coming closer. It seemed to be waltzing outside the parlor door. Without thinking, she opened the door and watched it gracefully glide in and float above her head. She continued to gaze in amazement it as it settled on the floor until it slowly faded and then finally vanished.
* * *
The next morning, Kristen awoke in her bedroom with the strangest feeling that something had happened during the night. Oh, yes, she recalled in excitement. It was Christmas morning. SANTA HAD COME!
She ran into the living room.
As usual, the cookies were gone and the gifts were piled high all around the tree. And for a moment, it was the same as it always had been. She was tempted to scream for Nick, mom and dad to GET UP and begin to open the presents.
But, instead, she quietly sat down… and began to remember.
The red and green light that had come into the house is what had given her this feeling. As it twirled around and around, finally stopping just before it disappeared, it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. It was better than all of the Christmas presents in the world put together, and she just wanted to remember it forever.
But just as suddenly as the memory came it was leaving and now Nick was up and staring at all of the brightly colored wrappings. Christmas morning at the Bachta house was just beginning.
* * *
"Well, that's done until next year."
Loreano stretched while Roena added, "Yes, the red and green ones came out especially well and the yellow ones that look like stars were a lot brighter than usual."
Roena smiled to herself as she recalled what Santa had taught them during that very first session: "Most of them won't actually see the lights; or if they do, they won't remember. But what they will remember every year during this season, especially when they see the Christmas lights on the trees, around the rooftops, on the streets and in the stores, is a sense of peace-filled wonderment. And that is really the gift they will spend the rest of their Christmases sharing."
* * *
"Merry Christmas, Nick."
Kristen gave her little brother a big hug and kiss and took him by the hand to wake her sleeping parents.