Breakfast with Santa

It could be Valentine’s Day before tinsel (and somehow even a sprig of mistletoe) will be glaringly out of place, when I might consider taking down the tree that had kindly softened the hard edges of winter with a timely dash of cheer. To get through a nipping January, Santa and I started having breakfast by the tree. We’d sit at the brass coffee table, I in my robe and slippers and he already dressed for the day in a delicate square of tinfoil that played off the brass and shimmered in the dancing light of two glitter-dusted candles, a pillar of red and a pillar of gold, gifts included in my sister’s Christmas package with the cranberry-colored afghan she had crocheted in the weeks following her appendectomy.

SantaSanta fortified me. He encouraged me to bundle up, to venture out into the darkness down six icy blocks to the bus stop, to board the #21, and to go to work. A man of few words, Santa’s rosy little face was so reassuring that I briefly considered stuffing him in my coat pocket and taking him wherever I went. Having a Santa in your pocket can evoke sympathy in our worst moments. That’s not a jackass jamming up traffic! Maybe there’s a casserole in the trunk! A bee in the car! Maybe there’s a jilted man at the wheel! It doesn’t really matter. He obviously needs a break!

One day for no reason at all, I bit off Santa’s head. A jolt of regret delivered me from a mindless state the very second I could feel his tiny hollow neck give way. But it was too late. Once a bright-eyed visage that beamed with kindness that could fill the cracks of a broken soul, Santa’s face was now a distorted crumple of red, gold and green staring back at me from a crooked eyeball that had somehow survived the unprovoked attack. To make things worse, I couldn’t bring myself to eat the rest of him. So he sat there, a mangled freak of nature that would not let me forget what I had done. I had ruined Santa and now he was ruining breakfast. Looking quite normal from behind, I turned the decapitated Santa away from me. But this only punctuated the deed. Desperate for some relief, I made a confession to my sweetheart who understood where anyone else might have taken my sobbing to mean that I had accidentally backed over the cat… or something worse.

The next morning I found that Santa had been restored. While his battle scars might have been apparent, his little face had been carefully folded back into shape such that he seemed like his old self again. Santa could have justified a punishment. He could have whipped up a guilt trip, or held me at a safe distance. He could have stewed while pretending to be fine. He might have abandoned me in an unforgiving state of limbo where there is no love and not enough anger to find it. But Santa isn’t like that. Instead, after a full recovery he resumed with our morning ritual with a deep and fearless vulnerability that humbled me in my good moments and frightened me in my weaker ones. And while at first I couldn’t be sure, I eventually came to trust that Santa was for real

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