During Christmas nights, when the moon was high up in the sky, she and her children would sit near the window above the fireplace, their noses pressed against the mullioned windows, waiting for Santa and his reindeer to fly through the dark winter sky. Halfway through the freezing night, their mother would find them fast asleep on their beaten leather couch, their lips curled into smiles and dreams fleeting in their little hearts.
The mornings that followed Christmas nights, they’d sigh and grumble for having fallen asleep so fast. Perhaps, Santa visited them then, they’d reason. Their mother would be standing near the corner, listening to their every talk, feeling pangs of burning pain running down her heart when she revelled in their infinite hopes. Her kids never had any gifts. They didn’t have proper mittens and sweaters. They never had pies for Christmas desserts. Yet, they would never blame Santa. They would never question his existence. Every Christmas they went by, they would take the blame on themselves.
“Santa left perhaps, when we blinked!” and “Santa didn’t visit us perhaps, because we haven’t been so good this year!” They would tell each other. Dreams never died in their eyes. Hopes lit up in them with each passing day.
“Ma,” they happened to ask one night. “Have you ever seen Santa Claus?”
What could their mother say? Her heart broke in sorrow. How could she tell her kids that she didn’t know if Santa did exist! How could she tell them that the fairytale they look forward is a mere illusion! How could she tell them the things that could only bring pain?
“Yes,” she lied.
And every Christmas after that, she watched them wait.
Until one Christmas night, when they had no roof over their head and starved. The night was vast. Snowflakes covered them in its snares. To the occasional howl of a street dog, they slept. Santa was forgotten that night. When hunger scratched their poor bellies and tears dried against their cheeks, suddenly the fairytale they had dreamed of for so long, metamorphosed into a painful reality. They realized, with a heavy heart, that the fairytale was gone. The freezing winds, the lonely streets, the hungry groans – how did they even dare to think that their life was going to be a fairytale?
“Ma,” they asked again. “Does Santa exist?”
“Yes,” their mother lied.
They slept without any food. They slept to racking shivers and mumbles. They slept without waiting for Santa. In the back of their minds, they knew they wouldn’t wake up again for another Christmas.
When the morning arrived, they found themselves in a warm house, next to the fireplace. Lavish breakfast awaited them. Without a bother, they ate and cried in joy.
Santa was remembered again.
“See! Santa gave us this, Ma,” they cried in giddy happiness.
Their mother nodded in agreement.
“Ma, Santa does exist, right?” they asked for the third time again.
“Yes,” she said. Only this time, she didn’t lie.