The Chinese Test This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 6, 2012
By
I cannot think about Christmas without remembering the year of the robot and the Chinese letter. This memory still makes me smile when I think of all the events that went on in the background. It wasn't until years later that I was told "the rest of the story."

Like every year, the commercials commenced to market their new toys in early November. I can still picture myself sitting and spooning cereal in my mouth when this four-foot robot appeared on television. This robot did everything – at least the ads said it did. It played ball, sang songs, even served drinks. Right then and there I knew this would be the brother that I wanted and never had. My mother kept telling me that the robot was too big and too expensive for Santa and she was quite sure that he could not load it on his sleigh. Like most eight-year-olds, I did not believe her. After all, this was Santa she was doubting.

So there I sat Christmas Eve writing my note to Santa. I was in a chaotic state. I had just heard from my friends that Santa was a charlatan and my parents were the gift buyers; I was baffled. If this were true, I would not get a robot. Only Santa could fulfill such a dream. I had to put Santa to a test. I asked him to answer my note in Chinese. His letter would prove to me that he was authentic and the awful rumor about him was untrue. I placed the note on the mantle with milk and four cookies (three after I ate one – funny I still feel guilty about this little transgression).

I went to bed early, but the robot kept popping up in my mind. I had all sorts of visions of what we would do together. I even planned for him to do my homework. These thoughts seemed to stall the sleep process, but finally Mr. Sandman got the best of me.

Morning came early that Christmas – about 3 a.m. When I woke my parents, they promptly ordered me back to bed. I could hear the chimes of the grandfather clock: 3, 3:30, 4 a.m. - until what seemed like eternity finally came to an end. The clock finally counted out 7. Down I went, two stairs at a time, to search for any colossal package. I was not worried. I figured that the robot had to be assembled, which meant it would be in a smaller package.

I rushed to read Santa's letter; he had written to me in Chinese. It didn't surprise me, after all my eight-year-old faith could produce minor miracles. We started to unwrap the gifts and I tore into them like a mad lion looking for her cub. After making a mountain out of the unwrapped presents, my body started to tremble. Where was my robot? I could feel the tears trickle down my face and no amount of force could stop the flow of lost hope. Why had Santa let me down? What went wrong? Was he angry because I ate one of his cookies. My thoughts were broken when I heard a muffled voice say, "Jamie, where are you?"

My dad opened the foyer door and out walked the robot. I stood dumbfounded. The spell I seemed to be in was not broken until the flash on my dad's camera made me blink.

"The rest of the story" is that my parents didn't see my note to Santa until 10 p.m. Christmas Eve. My mother said that it was snowing that night and the weather was dreadful, but she wasn't ready to see me lose my faith in Santa. Out she went in search of anyone who could write Chinese. After five restaurants and a dozen or so Chinese who could not write in their native language, she found a little man who wrote in Chinese that there was a Santa Claus.

The robot is long gone, but the letter in Chinese is tucked away in my drawer. Whenever I come across it, I think of all the emotions that swept over me that Christmas morning. I carefully fold the letter and realize I don't really want to throw this memory away in a basket.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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