It was a few weeks into January when the big-hearted nine-year-old asked to use his mother's computer. He wanted to check on the genuine Harry Potter wizard's wand he had ordered with his Christmas money.
The house was quiet, but all that changed after just a few clicks of the mouse. "You lied!" he screamed, in a voice equal parts rage and pain. Then came the tears.
What he'd seen on the screen was the receipt for another holiday purchase, one that had appeared under the tree on Christmas morning with a tag that read "From Santa." And, as any kid can tell you, Santa Claus doesn't shop online.
Only a few weeks earlier, the son had told the father that Christmas Eve was his favorite part of the holiday. He loved putting out Oreos and carrots for Santa and Rudolph, tracking Santa's flight on the NORAD website, and, most of all, listening for the sound of footsteps on the roof. Even then, the father had told himself that he wouldn't lie when the day came that the son asked for the truth about Santa. But this wasn't a question.
"You lied," he cried again and again.
The tears and accusations continued through the afternoon and evening, ebbing for a bit, only to flare up again like a stubborn brush fire, unwilling to be extinguished.
"I can't believe you lied to me."
"I guess the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are fake, too."
"Why do grownups lie to kids?"
"You ate the cookies, right?"
"This is the worst day of my life."
For days, he was inconsolable in the way that only a big-hearted nine-year-old can be. Again and again, the father gingerly tried to raise the subject, only to be dismissed with a glare and a stoney "I don't want to talk about it."
Then, about two weeks later, the son and the father were sitting together at a restaurant, and the father asked the question again. "So what are you thinking about this Santa thing?"
"Santa? He's great," the son answered, in a voice that was almost too loud. "He won't always bring everything you want, but if you get your letter to him early enough, he usually will bring you the important stuff."
The father started to interrupt. "I thought..."
"Dad!" the son whispered, his eyes darting to the left. There sat another family with two little boys, maybe six and four years old. "Don't ruin it for them."
He went on about Santa's many virtues for another minute or two, before calmly returning to his fries.
Perhaps the son had discovered a bigger truth about Santa. Or maybe he somehow instinctively understood that the best way to ease your own pain is by helping others. The father wasn't sure. But one thing was certain: In that moment, though the tree and lights were already put away, the son had given a remarkable Christmas gift to two little strangers. And to his dad.
Wishing you peace for the holiday season and the new year ahead...
Editor and Publisher