For most of our childhood, there were moments where fairy tales weren’t locked up behind the pages. A moment where magic was real, and the world seemed to be made of nothing but kindness, merriness, sweets and gifts. The only time when we would rush to our beds, get cozy under the blankets and close our eyes tight, begging to the next morning arrive soon. Because, after all, it would be Christmas.
It lasts, however, more than December 25. When the eleven turns to twelve it begins. The city is a musical, lighted in green, red and gold, and every place playing carols. Our four-year-old selves voraciously write letters and wish-lists, that will surely give us exactly what we need to become heroes and heroines, knights, doctors, dancers and astronauts.
My mom and my brother come in carrying a tree, but not like the ones outside. Those trees don’t have all the leaves. Mom said that they fell. But this one is different, anyway, like the one from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. I stare at the tree in awe while they start to hang colorful, bright balls. I wanted to put one there, too. I take one out of my mom’s hand and put it in the tree, just like they were doing. It falls and everyone is laughing, so I laugh too.
A Santa’s face stares at me from the paper, wishing “Merry Christmas! Ho, Ho, Ho” with a smile. There is a big balloon that says that “Santa lost our letters in the mail, and can’t remember what we want for Christmas. What do you want for Christmas this year?” I play around with the pencil as if I’m thinking that this activity is stupid. The other kids are doing the same. Almost there, I think, as the doodles starts to look like words. And then it’s gone. The boy sitting next to me looks from the paper to me. “You still believe in Santa? What a baby. He doesn’t exist.” I tell him that he is lying, but I still come home in tears. He is a big bully anyway, but he is older and don’t they know more?
I open the door quietly because I don’t know if mom is sleeping and I don’t want her to know that I’ve been crying. I hear mom’s hushing voice. She is in the phone. “I don’t know what they want, the kids haven’t told us yet. But I think they will like what I got. Yes, they are growing fast, aren’t they? I don’t how long they are still going to believe it. I wish it would never stop.” I close the door loudly, and mom hangs up the phone. She smiles, but it is fake. She thinks that I heard her. “So, what did you do in school today? Anything for Christmas?” And I realize that all this time, Santa was hers, too. So I shrug and say, “Oh, we just wrote a letter to Santa”, and mom has her usual smiling now. Maybe I can still believe it for a few more Christmases.
“This is going to be your last Christmas home” my mom says. I lift my eyes of the essay that I’m writing. “Well, not your last at home, I hope” she laughs a little, “but I mean, you won’t be living home at this time of the year”. She waits for me to finish. It is her favorite holiday, and every day leading up to the 25th, she somehow celebrates Christmas. To her, it’s always the little things. Some are traditions, like hanging socks with our initials or buying a different nutcracker every year – hippie, lumberjack, british, in summer style. Others are crazy spontaneous serendipities, like driving almost an hour just to see a real reindeer upstate.
And I want to sit by her side and remember that. I know that I can’t keep up this year. I smile and say, “Maybe we can do all our favorite traditions in one day. We’ll simply have to make the 25th more special, mom”. She smiles with the idea of what she would later call “Christmas extravaganza”.