Dorothy filled the waiting cake pans then placed them in the preheated oven. She noted the time on the small clock built into the top of the stove and made a mental note on when the cake would be ready to be tested for doneness. She laid a slender wood cake tester on the counter in readiness for the testing. Glancing at the clock again, she realized that her two oldest girls should be arriving home from school any minute.
Right on time, Megan, eight and Colleen, almost seven, came bursting through the kitchen door. It was time for more mayhem in the house as the
two oldest girls brought with them their schoolbooks, jackets and inevitable
squabbling with the three youngest kids currently watching Howdy Dowdy
on the living room television.
Colleen lifted her nose in the air and sniffed hungrily. “Something
smells good.” Colleen was always hungry. Dorothy wasn’t sure how she
stayed so skinny with the amount of food she could pack away.
Dorothy smiled at the girls. “What you are smelling is the cake I am
making for Jesus for his birthday. You can have some cookies from the
cookie jar and a glass of milk.”
By some sort of radar, the other three came trooping in from the living
room. “Cookies?” asked Sean, four. Sara, five was already pouring milk
and Patrick, two was attempting to climb onto a kitchen chair.
Dorothy just shook her head. There went another gallon of milk.
“Okay, everybody sit down. Megan, get some more glasses please.”
Megan, as the oldest was often asked to be mom’s helper, a role she
was not that fond of. Megan made a face but did get the glasses down and
all the children sat at the porcelain topped large table with the green painted
“Who would like to help me frost the birthday cake later?” Megan
and Colleen said they had homework and the boys looked horrified at doing
kitchen work. Shy Sara raised her hand. “I’ll do it mommy.”
“Thank you Sara. You get to lick the frosting bowl.”
A silence fell on the cookie munching kids. She hadn’t said the helper
would get to lick the bowl. That was considered a special treat and now
Sara was going to get to do it. Megan reconsidered but remembering the
argument she had had with Pete Monroe, decided she would rather go up to the room she shared with Colleen and think about ways to get him. She left the kitchen and half a cookie.
Dorothy raised her eyebrows at the cookie half and Colleen grabbed
it. Colleen said to her mother, “Megan’s mad.”
“What’s she mad about?”
“She got mad at Pete Monroe and wants to do something to him.”
Dorothy was a little alarmed at this as Megan had the Irish temper of
her father’s family. Checking the clock on the oven, she decided that she
had time to go upstairs and find out what was bothering Megan.
She found Megan sitting on her bed staring into space. She
considered asking what was wrong then decided the direct approach was
best. “Megan, did you have a fight with Pete Monroe?”
“He says there isn’t any Santa Claus. I told him I knew he existed,
that I had seen him. I tried to tell him that he just needed to believe. He just
laughed and said I was wrong and acting like a little kid. He laughed at me.”
Megan was starting to tear up then clenched her fist and hit the bed.
“I’ll get him.”
Dorothy hugged her daughter. “No, no you won’t get him. A lot of
people don’t believe in Santa Claus. He is the spirit of Christmas. You
don’t have to believe in Santa Claus to believe in the spirit of Christmas.
And remember the important thing, what Christmas is, the birth of Jesus.
That’s why I’m making a birthday cake for him for Christmas dinner. It’shis birthday.”
“I know Mom.” Megan was silent for a while. “But I did see him.”
“I know you did honey.”
“I’ll come help you with the cake.”
“That’s okay. You just do your homework. Sara will help me.”
“We really don’t have to do any homework until the night before the
end of Christmas break. I just didn’t want to do the cake.”
“I know. Why don’t you read a book. I have to get down and take the cake out of the oven.” Dorothy knew that reading a book would always be the top pick for Megan.
After dinner, which was the usual noisy time, the family went to
Christmas Eve mass. By the time the kids were in bed, probably not
sleeping right away due to the Christmas excitement, the exhausted parents had some time for themselves.
Colin was putting together a bike for Sean. The other bikes in the
family were girl bikes and Sean had begged for a boy bike. The red wagon
for Patrick also needed to have the handle put on. Margaret started putting
other presents, dolls, building blocks, a doll house and a few other toys
under the tree in the living room. With five children, they couldn’t afford a
ton of presents, but each child got one big present plus some smaller ones.
Margaret laid out the stockings which would be filled with smaller
goodies and an orange. Colin snorted, “Should we put a lump of coal in the
toe of each one for all the bad things they did during the year.”
Margaret laughed. “They probably wouldn’t know what coal is or
what it meant.”
Colin reached out and gave his wife a hug, then grabbed a cookie
from the plate on a table next to the fireplace. “Thanks for the cookies you
left for Santa.”
Dorothy thoughtfully looked at the plate the kids had left for Santa.
“Colin we need to tell Megan there is no Santa Claus.”
“Because she is eight years old and other kids are teasing her at
school. That story you told her about the neighbor’s Santa convinced her
there really is a Santa Claus.”
Colin laughed. “Well, I had to come up with something in a hurry.”
Megan had been five years old when she had seen a Santa Claus get out of a car and walk across the street into the neighbor’s house. Colin had told her that as it was raining, Santa had to come to the area in a taxi. Megan
absolutely believed him and had thought she had seen the true Santa. That
was the reason her faith in Santa was unshakeable.
“Colin, you made her believe in Santa. You have to tell her.”
“Yes, you! Tell her he is the spirit of Christmas. That he was a Saint
centuries ago but he is now just something people tell little kids. That’s it is
about magic and fun.”
“You think she’ll buy it?”
Dorothy sighed. “I’m afraid she is going to be upset and feel we lied
to her. But we have to tell her. She is too old to believe in Santa.”
Colin glumly nodded, not looking forward to the conversation with
On Christmas morning, Dorothy and Colin woke Megan up before the
other children. “Shush. Come downstairs. We need to talk to you about
Megan rubbed at her eyes and wondered what her parents wanted.
She got more excited. Were they going to give her something special as the oldest? She put on the slippers Mom handed her and silently left the room. When they were downstairs, they didn’t go into the living room, but into the kitchen. What was going on?
Colin and Dorothy sat down at the kitchen table. Colin poured
himself a cup of coffee from the percolator and cleared his throat. “Uh,
hum, um, Megan sit down. Would you like a cookie? Glass of milk?”
Dorothy gave Colin a long look. “Colin. Get on with it. The other
kids will be awake any minute.”
Megan looked at each of her parents in turn. They both looked
serious. What was wrong? She was starting to get scared.
Colin cleared his throat again. “Uh, hum, um, Megan we wanted to
talk to you about Santa Claus.”
“Did he like the cookies we left out? Did he eat them?”
“Uh, yeah he did.”
“Colin!” interjected Dorothy.
“Okay, okay. Megan, there is no Santa Claus. He is just something
that we tell little kids to make Christmas magical and fun for them.”
Megan felt cold all over. She was stunned. What was he talking about?
“But I saw him!”
“No sweetheart you saw a man in a Santa Claus suit going to a party
at the neighbor’s. I told you it was Santa to keep up the fun for you.”
Megan felt confused. Then she felt betrayed. Then she felt mad.
Really mad. “So all you parents lie to all little kids?”
Dorothy put her arm around Megan. “I wouldn’t exactly call it lying
honey. Santa is the spirit of Christmas. Parents tell their kids about Santa
because he is magic and fun. You are a big girl now and now you know the
truth. Just don’t spoil it for the little kids, okay?”
Megan sat in stony silence. Dorothy asked again, “Okay?”
Megan eventually nodded even though she didn’t agree. She had
thought it was hard being the oldest before. But this! She had been so sure
that Santa was real! And thinking about Pete Monroe made her cringe
inside. No wonder he laughed at her. This felt horrible. She felt that she
had lost someone and something special. So she was a big girl. Big deal!
She still liked magic. She still liked fun. Lots of fun.
Her parents went up the stairs to wake the rest of the kids. The little
kids. The happy little kids who still believed in Santa Claus. The little kids
who were being lied to. Hu! She wondered when they were going to tell
them. Why shouldn’t they feel like this too? Well, maybe not the real little
kids, but what about her sister Colleen? Colleen went to school too. Why
should she still have magic and fun? Why indeed.
Megan gave an evil little laugh and went upstairs to wake her sister
and to tell her what her parents had told her about there being no Santa
Claus. Her parents didn’t want her to share the news but why not? Wasn’t it
time for Colleen to become a big girl too? If she couldn’t have Santa
anymore, neither would Colleen.