When Santa forgot

I was ten years old when Santa forgot me. I got up on Christmas morning and rushed down to the tree to see what he had left.

Of course I knew that Santa didn’t exist — or rather, I knew that Mom and Dad were Santa. But since I had a little brother and sister, the magical Santa still came to our house.

I found only one box for me under the tree, which meant it would be especially good. Instead, it was just a hat and scarf set, and not a very good hat and scarf set, or even a color I liked. I felt disappointed and most of all bewildered. For the benefit of the little ones, I acted happy, but I wasn’t.

Soon my mother called me aside and apologized. In the confusion of the holiday, she and Dad had miscounted gifts and realized late the night before that they had nothing for me from Santa, so Dad ran out and got something quick. She hoped I understood, and I did, I really did. Those two little ones sowed constant confusion. I imagined Dad going to the only place open on late Christmas Eve night, which in those days was probably a gas station, and given the limited merchandise, he had made a good choice.

And yet I had to hide tears. I wasn’t unhappy with my parents. I genuinely appreciated the effort. I wore the hat and scarf, and they were warm.

What hurt me was the proof of something I had already suspected but hadn’t wanted to believe: the world had no magic, no guarantees. It was full of human beings who made mistakes. An innocently botched Christmas gift was trifling, but devastating mistakes were possible, too. Given time — and a ten-year-old has lots of time ahead of her — devastating mistakes would happen. I got my proof that Christmas morning.

Sometimes Santa simply forgets.

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