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Secret Santa - Chapter 1


Jessica Rolph | December 4, 2019

W

inter swept in quickly that year. Thanksgiving leftovers had been packed away in the fridge, rooflines began sprouting twinkling lights, and with one gust of wind, the temperature dropped into the teens and snow appeared. It was nearly Christmas, and in the Johnson household, preparations were under way.

Mother and Father had brought down the decorations from the attic, including the giant artificial tree. It was an 8’ giant, flocked with sparkling white snow, already adorned with hundreds of white lights. The Johnson children gathered around the towering evergreen, each holding a favorite ornament. The youngest, a blonde haired 4-year-old named Andy, and obviously the family favorite (at least according to the other children), clutched the star that would be settled precariously on top.

This was in 2012, and it was a memorable year for the Johnson family. Mother received a promotion at work, while Father finished a book he’d been working on for over a decade. There was plenty to celebrate. But for the children, it would prove memorable for one reason. This was the year they settled the debate about whether Santa Claus was real or not, once and for all.

That first evening in December, as they filled the tree with ornaments and memories, they argued quietly amongst themselves. Leah was the oldest, and at 12 years old, she had long ago given up on the reality of the jolly man in a red suit. But she was also kind by nature and loved her younger brothers beyond measure. She didn’t want to steal any of the magic from the season. So despite being an honest and forthright young lady, when Andy asked her if she believed in Santa, she smiled and winked.

“Of course, Santa is real,” Andy explained triumphantly to his older brother, Ryan. “We even have pictures of him!”

Ryan stared down at his brother, fully convinced that his three additional years granted him the authority in this discussion. “Mom says those are Santa’s helpers, Andy! They’re just guys dressed up with fake beards.”

This announcement threatened to ruin an otherwise wonderful evening, and when Leah saw her smallest sibling’s eyes brimming with tears, she quickly stepped in. “Stop it, Ryan,” she demanded. “If you don’t believe in Santa, why’d you write him a letter asking for toys? Besides,” she said, ruffling Andy’s fair, “I know he’s real. I’ve seen him.”

And this is really where our story starts. The younger boys quickly grabbed their sister, demanding to know when she’d seen Santa, what he looked like, how had this happened? And Leah, moved by her gentle heart and her baby brother’s tears, found herself in an uncomfortable position. She had never seen Santa Claus, though she’d imagined she’d heard him a few times when she was younger, tucked into her bed on Christmas Eve and too excited to sleep. But having started down this road, she decided she had no choice but to finish what she’d started.

“I was 6,” she told her brothers. “It was late on Christmas Eve, and Mom and Dad were both asleep. I thought I heard something, on the roof. It sounded like footsteps….or hoofsteps, I guess. So I snuck to the stairs and looked into the family room. And I saw him.”

Ryan watched her for a few seconds. “You’re lying,” he declared.

“No, really!” Leah insisted, now caught up in her own story. “I saw his shadow, at least. Besides, I know it was him because he brought me the scooter I wanted and ate the cookies. They were gone the next day.”

The boys mulled this over. Andy accepted it easily, but Ryan, always the skeptic, shook his head.

“Fine. This year, I’ll prove it,” Leah stated, surprising herself. “This year, I’ll show you both that Santa is real.”

Make sure to come back next week for the 2nd installment of Secret Santa.