by Marisa DelFarno ’18
This Christmas was shaping up to be the best one ever! Actually, no. That’s a lie. This Christmas marks another year where Natalie and her sister, Sara, have to endure dinner table discussion with their Aunt Claudia, who incessantly brags about her daughter, Jane.
Natalie and Sara huddle together at one end of the table while their mom and Aunt Claudia are seated at the opposite end. Porcelain dishes housing ham, mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots lay scattered on the table, obstructing the girls’ view of their aunt’s Raggedy Ann-red dyed hair with matching red lipstick, staining both her lips and teeth. Her powdery makeup is caked on, creasing into her wrinkles. The sisters attempt to avoid conversation by hovering their heads over their plates and stuffing their mouths with food. However, Aunt Claudia always finds a way to bring up Jane and her lengthy list of accomplishments…
Sara: (puts down her fork and rubs her stomach) All this food is giving me agita. I might go upstairs and lay down for a bit.
Natalie: (pushes her plate away from her) Oh my God, me too!
The girls rise from their seats and make a beeline for the stairs.
Mom: Wait, come back! Let’s all sit and talk. (nudges her head) We haven’t seen Aunt Claudia since last Christmas.
Sara: (takes a deep breath) Okay, fine.
Natalie and Sara drag their feet back to the dinner table as if they were made of cinder blocks and sit.
Aunt Claudia: (smiles) So, Natalie, do you have a boyfriend?
Aunt Claudia: (turns to Sara) Sara, what about you?
Sara: (without looking up from her phone) Nope!
Aunt Claudia: Oh, well, Jane and her boyfriend Henry are still going strong. Five years already! They just got themselves an apartment in Palo Alto. It is so beautiful over there in California. (spits as she talks) BIG bucks they are making now!
Natalie: Oh, good for them. I heard tha—
Aunt Claudia: They went to Japan together this summer, too! Do you want to see a picture of them in Kyoto? (whips out her phone from her pocket and scrolls through it before passing it around the table)
Sara & Natalie: (voices infected with indifference) Aww.
Aunt Claudia: Isn’t she gorgeous? So classy and natural-looking! I always tell her she should model! (points to her phone) Doesn’t she look exactly like Prince Harry’s fiancée? Oh what’s her name…Meghan Markle!
Mom: (leans in for a closer look) Why yes, she does. It’s uncanny!
Sara & Natalie: Uh-huh. Yeah.
Aunt Claudia: Anyways, Natalie, do you have any plans for after graduation?
Natalie: Um…hopefully grad school. I’ve been checking out a few creative writing programs and—
Aunt Claudia: Oh, Jane is into creative writing, too! But she only keeps that as a hobby. (laughs) She used to write prose, but now she writes code! (laughs at her own joke until silence fills the room)
Mom: You know, there aren’t a lot of women in STEM fields. I think it’s great—
Aunt Claudia: You all don’t know how proud I am that Jane is a software developer! She’s only 23 and look, she’s working in Silicon Valley!
Sara: Yeah, we know.
Aunt Claudia: Anyways, Natalie, what were you saying again? I forgot.
Natalie: Oh, well, I might take a gap year. Save up, travel, maybe take a GRE review course, and then apply to a couple of programs. (half-smiles and shrugs shoulders)
Aunt Claudia: Oh…(takes a long pause) And, ah, Sara, how are things at school?
Sara: (apathetically) Fine, I guess.
Mom: (turns to Aunt Claudia) Sara has been doing great in school! She got all A’s this quarter! If she keeps this up, she’s going to graduate with honors! (smiles at Sara, whose face is reddened with embarrassment)
Aunt Claudia: Oh that’s good, dear. You know, Jane graduated with honors in high school and later summa cum laude in college!
There’s an awkward silence. Sara’s eyes dart down to her phone and she fumbles with it underneath the table. Natalie’s phone buzzes. A text from Sara reads “kill me now.” The sisters exchange looks and a smirk.
Mom: (notices Aunt Claudia’s empty plate) Hey, we’ve got desserts. Do you want some Christmas cookies?
Aunt Claudia: Oh, yes please!
Mom: I’ll be right back. (disappears into the kitchen)
Aunt Claudia: Hmm, I’ve been talking so much about Jane. Let’s switch up the conversation. (grins like the Cheshire cat) Let’s talk politics!
by Erin Lucey ’20
This Christmas was shaping up to be the best one ever—or at least the best one my kids would see so far—when it all abruptly collapsed. Just as we felt that everything was falling into place, we blinked and it had all fallen apart. The tree stood lonely in the corner of the living room, lights unplugged and lively ornaments populating just the top portion of its left side. The children’s gifts lay tucked away in the attic closet, unwrapped and unseen. The house was empty.
The world saw its first broken Christmas 12 years ago, two months before the birth of my first child. For roughly a month and a half before the big day, new rumors kept surfacing that shocked the world and began to abolish the magic of the season. For the very first time in history, journalists had made their way to the very top of the Earth, to report on the subject we all wondered about, but wouldn’t dare question—Santa’s toy factory in the North Pole.
What they discovered astounded everyone who believed. Photos of the horrifying working and living conditions that his helpless elves experienced quickly circulated, and the world’s jolly image of Santa quickly flipped to the vision of a monster.
On the night of Christmas Eve of 2005, on his annual mission to deliver gifts to the nicest children around the world, he was assassinated as he flew over North America. The traditional celebration of Christmas was banned, and everyone promised to never mention the evil man or his Christmas practices ever again. These rules became stricter and stricter over the years, quickly making the celebration of Christmas with a decorated pine tree and “Santa’s presents” a hefty criminal offense.
I’ve always been particularly fond of the loving magic that engulfs the Christmas season, and couldn’t stomach the thought of my children never experiencing it as I did. As they grew up, I’ve slowly and subtly introduced the wonders of the holiday little by little. Starting with Christmas carols when they were babies, I’ve waited until they were old enough to keep the secret from their teachers and friends to decorate a tree, and allow “Santa” to bring them presents as a reward for their good behavior. This was supposed to be the first year of us doing it all.
As I wait here, surrounded by bleak cement walls and anchored with defeat, I wonder how it is that such a harmless and wholesome concept could become so irreparably damaged. Will Christmas ever regain its magic?
Left with nothing but my own inner holiday zeal, I walk up to the metal bars that enclose me and begin to gently tap with the side of my shoe, creating a calm and steady beat. Inhaling slowly, I quietly whisper just loud enough that it can be heard over my music, “You better watch out…”
And immediately a faint voice has joined me. “You better not cry…”
Two more voices have added to the harmony. “You better not pout…”
At least eight mouths are chanting now. “I’m telling you why…”
A door opens and guards come flooding in, but everyone in the prison is singing at this point.
“Santa Claus is coming…”
And at this very moment, I am sure that my family and I will always believe in the magic of Christmas.