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©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My love letter to a Christmas Ghost

Dear Father Christmas,

I remember seeing you that night, I can remember the house we lived in and that means I was six years old. I loved that house, remember it had a riding arena out in the back where the nearby high school girls would journey through the woods on their horses and ride around and around. I would run out to greet them and sometimes they would lift me up to ride double. And every Christmas, I asked you for a horse. Of course you remember, because you are Father Christmas and you feel the hearts of everyone, good and bad, and you especially are sensitive to the naive hearts who still believe in magic no matter what the age.

But I remember that night, even though it was some fifty one years ago. I remember it was snowing and mother and father had us all tucked into bed, which was not easy because we always got to stay up late on Christmas Eve and watch for you. They were wise though, they knew exactly when you would come down the chimney. My brother who was a year older and very wise, like a scientist, he said you most likely came through the door and that the chimney story was just preposterous. He said preposterous. Even so, I was always concerned that the fire was out long before you arrived so as not to burn you. But you knew this too because you are Father Christmas.

So we got all tucked into our beds, my brother in the upstairs attic room, and me in the downstairs room, right near the chimney and living area. My parents stayed up some, but then I saw the light reflections in my bedroom windows go dim, and I heard foot steps walk off down the hall. I lay in bed...waiting. I was sure if I just stayed very still, you wouldn't know I was awake and you would come. I'm impatient, I always was even then, and I got up out of bed and crept to my window, looking up into the snow flakes falling, convinced you would descend at any moment. The snow made a sound, even through the window, a puff, whoosh, then silent until the wind blew it into the panes.

I heard noises, but not from the roof, from the living room. How did I miss this, I wondered, you must have come to the house from another direction. I ever so softly opened my door and tip toed out into the nightly house, the lights of the tree guiding my tiny toes.

And what I saw is etched in my mind to this day. The beautiful tree was lit and the tiny colored lights bounced off the white socks of someone sitting in my father's chair. And you had a little black dog in your lap, just like us. It was you, Father Christmas and you were smoking a pipe-I couldn't see the smoke but it smelled like what my father smoked in his pipe. But you know all this, because you are Father Christmas.

I let out a Haley Mills gasp, holding my little hands over my mouth.

I heard another door in the house, and slipped back to my room and got so quickly into my bed in case somehow you might see me all the way from the living room. I got under the covers, and clutched my brown bear, and didn't move. I am not even sure I was breathing, but the next thing I remember is waking up to a beautiful sun over glistening snow crystals on my window.


I ran to the tree and the first thing I did was look for anything that might indicate you had brought me a horse. I was sure there might be something somewhere out of sight that would be kept until all the presents were opened. But you didn't bring me the horse and as the morning wore on, I quickly accepted that.

"He can't carry a horse in the sky," my brother suggested. "You'll just have to wait some more."

I didn't tell anyone that morning about seeing you. I don't know why. But I know it was you.

Years later now, I think back to that night, seeing you in the chair. I imagined you were just resting in the quiet of the busiest night in your life, enjoying a moment to yourself, with your dog, the beautiful light emanating out of the tree, enjoying a smoke. You were probably tired because you worked so hard to bring us gifts and you just needed some time to yourself to be you. And I know you never did bring me that horse, but I did get one, and it is better that it worked out that way.

But you know that, because you were and will always be my Father Christmas.