Waiting for Santa Clause

May 30, 2008
Every Christmas Eve was the same at the Laughlin household. Leisurely they would sleep in in the morning, then get up, finish their put off Christmas shopping, and come home. Once home they always made exactly two batches of sugar cookies and made sure they had milk on hand. Then, depending how much time was left that day, the family would sit down to play a board game of the two youngest Laughlin’s choice.

The Laughlin family was pretty average with a mom, a dad, a seven year old daughter named Paige, and a fifteen year old son by the name of Joseph. Like most siblings, Paige and Joseph Laughlin did not usually get along, though put their best foot forward on Christmas Eve. This year though, there was a conflict between the sister and brother that had not been there in the past. It began during the family’s annual board game, this year playing “Clue”.

“What do you think Santa will get you?” Paige asked her brother, as was customary for them to do every year. Joseph threw his parents an accusatory look, though turned to answer his sister.

“I don’t know…” He said, sounding rather bored. “Maybe that video game I wanted.”

It had been years since Joseph Laughlin had believed in Santa Clause. On his seventh Christmas his parents had admitted to the fact that they were the mysterious ‘Santa’ who always had presents placed under the tree for the two children.

“I think you’ll get coal,” Paige announced, smiling at her brother teasingly. “You’ve been awful naughty this year. You’re always being mean to me.”

Noticing Joseph’s annoyance at the foolish topic growing, the children’s mother quickly cut in.

“That’s not very nice Paige,” She said with a shake of her head. “Surely you don’t think Santa would give Joe coal just because he acted like most brothers do.”

Paige was quiet a moment, considering this. “I suppose not,” She said with a nod. “But maybe just one piece of coal AND some presents…”

Joseph threw his parents an angry look, but they shook their heads stiffly. Sighing he turned back to listen to his sister again.

“Which reindeer is your favorite?” Paige asked her brother with the blissfully innocent expression that only a small child can have.

“Reindeer don’t exist,” Joseph muttered, staring at the dice in his hand.

“Why sure they do!” Paige exclaimed, smiling pityingly, as if Joseph was confused. “We saw them at the zoo, remember?”

“Fine, flying reindeer don’t exist!” Joseph snapped, passing the dice to his father with a little more force then necessary.

“Yes they do!” Paige argued quickly, astonished by her brothers remark. “How else would Santa get around with all those presents?” She demanded, sure that her brother was wrong.

“It’s physically impossible to go to every house in the world in one night,” Joseph snapped, ignoring his parent’s stern expression.

Paige stared at him a moment, finally shaking her head patiently. “It’s not impossible for Santa Clause. That’s why he’s so magical.” She told him quietly.

“Santa does not ex-“ Joseph began, rising rapidly from his seat.

“Bed,” His father barked, cutting him off.

“But we’re not tired yet!” Paige argued, “And our game isn’t done!”

“You know, the sooner you go to bed, the sooner you’ll wake up to see what Santa brought you.” Her mother reminded her gently, rising from her seat.

“Santa Clause doesn’t exist!” Joseph shouted, tired of the nonsense that was being said. The room fell absolutely silent as Paige stared at her brother in surprise.

“He does too!” She said back, her lip quivering slightly.

“Joseph!” His father said, a warning to his tone.

“He does not and he never has! There’s no flying reindeer, no sleigh, no Santa Clause. You can’t go to every house in one night, and there is no ‘magic’ to Christmas but the time you get to spend with your family.” Joseph said angrily to his sister.

Paige’s eyes filled with tears as she stared at her brother. She’d never doubted what her brother said, never thought he could be wrong. And yet he was wrong, wasn’t he?

“Santa does too exist.” Paige sniffed, bringing a small hand up to her face to wipe her eyes.

“Joseph, BED!” His father growled, not having wanted to tell their daughter such devastating news like this at all.

Joseph ignored his father, glaring at Paige. “He doesn’t exist and I can prove it. It’s mother and father that put the presents under the tree, them that eat the milk and cookies. There is no such thing as Santa Clause!”

Paige was silent a moment, tears trickling down her face. Finally she turned, bolting away from her brother and up the stairs to their bedrooms. She stopped at the top, turning to look at her family,

“There is too!” She sobbed at Joseph, running the rest of the way to her room and slamming the door behind her.

Joseph could feel the angry stares of his parents, shaking his head a little. He knew he’d gone too far, it was just irritating. He could remember still when his parents had told him that Santa Clause did not exist. He’d been sure his parents were wrong, sure that they were lying, but then he’d stayed up that night, just to see, and had watched his parents place the “Santa” presents under the tree through the upstairs banister.

“I’ll go talk to her…” Joseph sighed, walking up the stairs and stopping at Paige’s bedroom. He knocked, listening as he heard his sister make a valid effort to stop crying.

“Paige?” He called softly.

There was a creaking as Paige got off her bed, walking slowly to the door and opening it a few inches.

“Go away!” She shouted at her brother in between her sobs. She started to shut the door again, but Joseph was too quick for her. Like lightening he put his foot in the door to stop its closing and then slipped inside his sister’s room. When she immediately tried to go out Joseph bent down and picked her up, carrying her to her bed and sitting down beside her.

“Are you mad at me?” He asked her gently. Paige looked at her brother, realizing that he looked sorry for what he’d done. Not wanting to make him feel worse Paige shook her head,

“No… But why don’t you believe in Santa Clause?” She asked him, trying to wipe her tears away. “Why would you say he doesn’t exist?”

Joseph hesitated, not wanting to make his sister more upset now, and yet, not sure he could answer her question without doing so.

“I just don’t believe in Santa Clause. I don’t think he exists and most people don’t.” Joseph said lamely, shrugging a little.

“Well he does!” Paige told him fiercely. “And I’ll prove it.” She added.

A little taken aback Joseph gave his sister a questioning look. “How?”

“When mom and dad go to bed I’m going to go downstairs and sit by the fireplace. I’ll look out the window for him and wait until he gets there. Then I’ll take a picture, just to prove to you he exists.” Paige told him determinedly.

“Paige, he’s not going to-“ Joseph began gently.

“If you don’t believe in Santa Clause then fine, but leave me alone.” Paige told him angrily.

Joseph sighed, standing up. “Alright Paige, I’ll go now.” He said quietly, walking out of the room and closing the door softly behind him.

Joseph layed awake, staring at the ceiling and listening for his sister. Sure enough, he heard the heavy footsteps of his parents coming up, then moments later the soft footsteps of his sister going down.

Joseph knew how the “Santa” tradition worked, having helped with it the last few years. His parents’ alarm clock was set to 3 A.M. so that they would wake up, could go downstairs and place the presents after they were sure Paige was asleep. This year though, after staring at the ceiling for some time Joseph formulated a plan.

At 2:35 Joseph got out of his bed, crept into his parents room, and turned off their alarm clock. He then took the presents that sat by their bed and placed them in a large sack he was able to find from an old Halloween costume. Quickly he worked until he had a full Santa Clause outfit from odds and ends, beard and all.

Silently Joseph went to the top of the stairs, looking down cautiously. Sure enough, Paige was sound asleep on the couch, a digital camera beside her on the table. He smiled a little, noticing the innocence that showed through as she slept.

Descending the stairs quietly as possible Joseph stopped beside his sister, gently picking up the digital camera. With only a little effort Joseph was able to get a decent picture of himself in the Santa outfit, glad that most of his face was covered up by the beard and hat. Once finished he set the camera down again, going to the tree and placing the presents silently underneath. He found the zip lock bags for each person labeled “Stocking” and put the presents in each person’s stocking.

When he reached his own stocking Joseph was pleased to see a DVD he’d wanted as well as a large chocolate bar and other pieces of candy he knew he’d enjoy later that day.

Now finished with all of his Santa duties Joseph put the final touch, taking a prewritten note from his pocket and placing it beside the digital camera. Silently Joseph went back upstairs, taking off his Santa costume and hiding it in the very top of his closet where Paige would not be able to see or reach it. He then slipped back under the covers, going to sleep for the last few hours before he knew Paige would wake him up.

Sure enough it was only six in the morning when Paige came thundering up the stairs, calling at the top of her lungs,

“Santa came! Santa came!” and waking all of her family members. Their parents of course, were somewhat frantic to realize neither of them had placed presents under the tree or filled the stockings. When they discovered the presents were in fact, where they belonged, they were fairly sure who to give credit to.

“Joe! Joseph! Santa Came!” Paige shouted, bursting into her brother’s room with all smiles. Just as Joseph had sat up sleepily Paige continued, “He came Joe! He took a picture of himself and even wrote me a note! He came Joe, just like I said he would!” She said, grinning ear to ear.

“Did you see him?” Joseph asked, smiling in mock surprise. Paige’s face fell slightly,

“Well… I fell asleep.” Paige admitted. “But he left a note and took his picture himself. Come see Joseph! You were wrong! He does exist!” Paige took her brother’s hand, practically dragging him out of bed and down to the living room.

“See?” Paige said, pointing to the presents, stockings, note, and camera. Joseph smiled nodding,

“I guess I was wrong, he must exist.” He replied evenly. “Why don’t you go look in your stocking Paige.” He suggested gently. Grinning, Paige took off to do just that.

“That was a really nice thing to do for your sister,” Joseph’s mother said behind him quietly.

“Showed a lot of responsibility.” His father agreed. Joseph shrugged,

“Who said it was me?” He asked, glad to see his parent’s confused expressions as he took off to look in his own stocking once more. He had every intention of eating a few of those chocolates…

Paige was sitting beside the fireplace, rifling through her stocking and exclaiming oohs and ahs as she pulled out her presents. Smiling, Joseph took down his stocking, sitting in the nearby chair to rifle through it. Just as he put his hand in to take out a chocolate or two he felt a piece of paper touch his finger tips. Pulling it out he found it was a note.

It was the oddest note he’d ever seen by far. The stationary design was of holly and Christmas bells, the ink alternated red and green for every letter, and the whole thing smelled faintly of peppermints. Astonished, Joseph read,

Joseph Laughlin,

Thanks for helping me out the other night. It’s always nice when I have one less stop to make on my rounds, though I couldn’t help leaving this note. What you did for your sister was a very thoughtful thing to do. Good job keeping the Christmas spirit alive, and I hope you haven’t stopped believing quite yet.

~Santa Clause

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