It’s Christmas Eve, I’m twelve years old, and my hands are shaking as I pour a glass of milk for Santa, so he can wash down the two chocolate chip cookies I’d placed beside the fireplace. If you’re thinking twelve is too old to believe in Santa, you’re probably right, but take that up with my parents, not me.
My family and I were just back from Christmas mass. I had really focused and reflected on what the holidays are truly about and got a lot of important thinking done. Like whether or not I was going to get that Nintendo 64. But I hadn’t had the best year. I got into that fight on the school bus. I skipped school mass for a month straight by hiding in the bathroom. I convinced my four year-old sister that if she didn’t smell my farts, the boogie man would eat her in her sleep. Jesus Christ, I prayed; I’m screwed.
Later that night, my mother tucked me in and kissed me on the forehead. “Sweet dreams,” she said, then walked over to my sixteen year old brother Tony to do the same thing; but he stopped her short.
“Ma, I’m in high school,” Tony said. “Enough with the kisses already.” So she tucked him in and made her way out of our bedroom. Tony waited for the door to creak shut, and then he turned to me and whispered, “You wanna see our gifts?”
Now, I knew there was no way in hell Santa had already come. My parents had just put me to bed and everybody knows that Santa doesn’t even start until midnight. But I was curious, so when he got out of bed and quietly made his way towards the bedroom door, I followed.
We tiptoed through the hallway and crept down the basement stairs until we arrived at the laundry room.
“Open the door,” he demanded, and he nudged me forward with a push.
“Not a chance,” I replied, stepping back from the door.
That laundry room is haunted from Thanksgiving to Christmas by the same ghost that haunts my parents’ bedroom on Valentine’s Day. It’s a ghost that only eats children, adults are safe. He knew that. I knew that. Our parents told us that every year for our entire lives and now he wants to risk it?
My brother turned the knob, nudging the door open. I covered my eyes and held my breath as I waited for the deadly grip of the holiday season ghost.
“Open your eyes,” my brother said. Then he peeled my hands away from my face.
I opened them. My jaw dropped and I rubbed my eyes as they adjusted to the light. A Nintendo 64. A brand new Schwinn BMX bike. Boxes of new toys stacked as high as the ceiling. My mouth was dry but I wanted to scream. I stepped back.
As I looked deep into my brother’s eyes, only one word came out.“Santa?”
published 22 February 2012