Friday, December 24, 2010


Twelve years ago:

I ignored the doctor as he spoke, at how his holiday-themed bow-tie was blinking. I blocked out the twittering interns clustered at the end of my baby’s bed. Instead I stroked his tiny, delicate fingers, careful to avoid the snaking tubes and wires.

“Let's see how he's doing later this afternoon. If there's some improvement. But right now I can't promise yet that you'll be home in time for Christmas,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

I acted like his words rolled off me. Pretended I was strong.

“Do you want us to get your husband for you?”

After three days in the hospital he didn’t need that. He deserved his break. However brief.

“No, I’m fine.”

They shuffled out. The monitors beeped, then hushed. I stared down at my son, at the blood-stained bandage swathing his head. Only six-weeks-old, he was a stranger to me. I was still getting to know this fragile creature, and the bruising and swelling from his cranial surgery made him indistinguishable. It left me too scared to pick him up, so afraid I’d hurt him further.

My breathing hitched. I shoved my chair back and stumbled for the bathroom. The door clicked shut behind me, and I slid down the cold tile wall as tears began to spill. I ignored the dark, the stench of bleach, and cried.

I thought of my other son, at home, waiting for his baby brother. The mounds of unopened gifts piled under our tree. How I dreamt of my baby’s first Christmas, and all of us together. Nothing had turned out as I’d hoped.

A timid knock startled me, and a wave of shame and guilt rocked me. I held my breath. Waited. Another stronger, more demanding knock rang out. I gave up and climbed to my feet. My back twinged in protest. I swiped at my tears and stepped out.

Santa Claus stared back at me, smiling. A group of teenagers were bunched behind him, huddled around my son's bed, my hometown’s name scrawled across their shirts. Our high school’s choir.

Santa wrapped his arm around me as they begin to sing. I burst into tears again. 

The carolers faltered, but continued. Just softer now. A frown crossed Santa's face, and over them he said, "What's wrong? Do you not want us to sing?"

I shook my head and wiped at my tears again. "It's not that," I finally said. I pointed to the nearest choir member's t-shirt.

“It's that town, that's where I live there. It's home. That's all."

He laughed. Relieved, I supposed. “Oh, that's wonderful! I bet you're going home for Christmas, aren't you?”

All I could do was shake my head again, and he stepped over and engulfed me in an enormous bear hug of fur and white beard and jingle bells.

 “Well then," he whispered in my ear, "it looks like Santa’s brought home to you for Christmas instead."


As I wrote yesterday, we did actually make it home in time. It's never ceased to amaze me,though, how life has shown over and over that even when my hope wanes, when my faith is shaken, things still always work themselves out in the end. Maybe not always the way I wanted or expected or even liked, but it always, always, works out in the end. 

I wish you all a Christmas Eve filled with hope and faith, as well a life overflowing with both.


  1. Your story is almost like a fairy tale...I never imagined that it was Santa knocking at the bathroom door!

    I'm happy you guys were able to make it home in time for Christmas. I didn't realize your son was so tiny and young during his first operations.

    Things now, yes, seem so trivial. But isn't nice that we can now worry about the trivial again? We are the people we envied during our moments of fear uncertainty.

    Merry Christmas <3

  2. No. I never imagined Santa would be on the other side. Or that he'd show up dressed as a clown later that evening, either. Turned out he was a volunteer there--he signed on after losing his son to a drunk driver. He felt it was his way of giving back, being there and spreading smiles to those who were finding themselves at a loss for some...

    He was a wonderful Santa. :) Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and may 2011 be a healthy and blessed year for you!!!


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