Short stories

A Christmas Wish

By Howard Schaverien

Dear Santa

I was eight when I last wrote to you, that would be forty five years ago. Each year Mummy would post what I had written, or so she said, because you had told her where you lived. I was so impressed and wondered if one day she would take me to meet you and all the people who helped you make the toys that you gave to children  on Xmas eve. Such were a little girls dreams.

Some months after my seventh birthday the truth dawned on me. I was not told in one shocking revelation that you were a fairy tale that made Xmas more exiting for young children. No, it was a gradual realisation. Bills left carelessly around the house and packing for presents lying at the bottom of cupboards. I also started to question how one man, even one as special as you, could possibly climb down so many chimneys  all over the world and leave everyone all those presents in one short night. And, in a sort of unconscious way, the myth dissolved and and this little girl grew up. I’m not claiming to be unique, it happens to us all.

So why am I writing to you now when I know that you don’t exist? Do you think that I have entered second childhood or that I am dreaming and will soon wake up and say, ‘what on earth did that mean’ and then think nothing more of it? It’s a little more complicated than that. 

For all the time that I remember, my parents were atheists. They were a good, altruistic couple but could not believe in a higher being when there was so much bad in the world. I was left to decide for myself which direction I took and, inevitably, despite religious teaching at school and attending the local church for some years, I came to the same conclusion as my parents. I imagine that it was not what was in my genes but their unconscious influence. But do not misunderstand me, I truly can’t believe that there is an all powerful, omniscient being watching over us and if there is it is not very benign.

It will be Xmas again soon and I am writing because I am married with three grown up daughters and four very small grandchildren. I want them to enjoy Xmas and believe in the magic of Santa just as I did when I was young. I am asking you for permission to do this. Yes, I know, this must sound very strange when I have already said that I don’t believe that you exist but you are very much there in my mind. You are a belief, a false one, perhaps, but you lighten up my life when I am sad.  Some people reserve a place in their day-dreams for a seashore, a warm sun and the soft lap of surf on a quiet beach and that helps them find solace from the daily grind. I find it by thinking of you.

Since my first was born I have always let my children decide for themselves who they are, their beliefs and how they should live their lives. This is a legacy learned from my own mother and father and it has worked well for me. I am not renouncing responsibility as a parent. I believe that I am giving my children the freedom of choice and with the love and care and comfort of a happy family upbringing they would steer toward being honest and kind and loving to others. I do not think that one could ask for anything more.

This is all now tinged with great sadness as both my parents died within a few days of one another three months ago; first my father and then my mother who could not bear the burden of her loss. Neither could be parted from the other. So, you see, they would have had it no other way such was their devotion. I, my daughters and grandchildren will sorely miss them. We still wish to celebrate the Xmas holiday, all of us together, as mum and dad would have wanted and we will share it with them in our hearts.  

I have lived a happy life but for some time before my parents died I had become deeply discomforted and depressed and I needed someone to talk to. Someone who would not criticise or get upset on my behalf. There are moments, even now, when I feel that I have sunk down a deep shaft away from any light and I am completely alone, unable to find my way out. I don’t understand why and if I am honest with you Santa, I am frightened.

None of my family know and I would never want to burden them at this time in their lives when they are bringing up young families and have financial commitments all of which keep them so occupied.  My husband does not always lend a sympathetic ear and if I spoke to him his response would be to ‘just get on with it.’ 

I wish that you could help me during this difficult period, it would be the most wonderful gift I could ever receive, but I know that this is not to be. Thank you for being so patient and taking the time to listen. Perhaps you could put this letter in your pending file and if you ever had the time … 

I have to go now as nurse and the warden are coming round to make sure that lights are out. I will try and sneak this letter to you in the morning.

Much love,  Margaret. 

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