One Christmas Eve
Previously unpublished. Originally written for my nephews, Christian and Eric, on 25 December 2001, in Anacortes, Washington (first read aloud to them that morning), and slightly revised in December of 2014.
One Christmas Eve, a seven-year-old boy named Christian didn’t want to go to bed. All the cooking was done, the stockings were pinned up around the living room fireplace, and the house was all clean and tidy. It was dark outside, and though it wasn’t snowing, frost curled at the windows, and the wind was howling.
“I don’t want to go to bed!” announced Christian after dinner.
“But you need to be in bed by 7:30,” said Daddy. “The sooner you go to bed, the sooner Christmas will come.”
“But I want to stay up and see Santa when he comes down the chimney,” said Christian.
“No, Christian,” said Daddy. “You need to go to bed.”
Christian sat still in his chair and looked at a bit of mashed potato still on his fork. “Which chimney will Santa come down, Daddy?” he asked. Christian lived in a big house with his Mummy and Daddy and his brother Eric, who was three and a half years old. Their house had four chimneys.
“I don’t know which chimney he would come down,” Daddy said. “But you won’t find out if you don’t go to bed!”
Christian licked the last bit of mashed potato from his fork and crossed his arms. He wasn’t very happy, even though it was Christmas Eve. He wanted a video game and a mountain bike, and he wanted to get them as soon as he could.
“Okay, off to bed, boys,” said Mummy, taking Christian and Eric by the hand and trotting them off to their bedrooms. Christian tugged against his mother’s arm but was soon tucked into his bed under his blue-striped comforter. With such a wind blowing outside, he was glad to be warm under his covers.
Later that night, Christian woke up with a jump. He heard noise in the house somewhere—he knew it. He pulled back his covers and swung his feet to the carpet, listening carefully. Then he heard it for sure—a thump! It must be Santa! Carefully Christian turned the handle on his bedroom door and looked out into the dark hallway. Even the Christmas tree lights were out, so it was very dark, though a crescent moon shone through a window.
“I must go see if it’s Santa,” thought Christian, and he very quietly walked down the hall. “I hope he has my bicycle! But which chimney will he be coming down?” he wondered. “Let me try living room—that’s where the stockings are.”
When he tiptoed to the living room, Christian couldn’t believe his eyes. There was Santa, standing by the biggest fireplace in the house, brushing streaks of soot off his bulging red suit. Santa grinned and said, “Hey Christian, you’re supposed to be in bed. But it’s okay, I brought you a toy.” Then Santa reached into his sack and pulled out a small present. It was a teddy bear. In fact, it was the same teddy bear Christian got for Christmas when he was three years old. That didn’t seem to be a very nice gift, to get something he already had. Maybe Christian was just dreaming—this was what he got for Christmas several years ago! And besides, he didn’t play with teddy bears anymore—he was a big boy. This didn’t seem very nice!
Just when Christian was about to say something to Santa, he heard another thump behind him. He spun around. The noise seemed to be coming from the family room. “Santa,” said Christian, “what’s that noise?” But when Christian turned back to where Santa had been standing, he was gone.
Then the thump came again. Christian walked carefully in his bare feet toward the family room, where there was another fireplace, a bit smaller than the one in the living room. Thump, thump. “What’s that noise?” thought Christian. Softly he opened the door to the family room, and there was Santa again! “How did you get here so quickly, Santa?” Christian wondered.
“Hey Christian, you’re supposed to be in bed!” Santa said. “But it’s okay, I brought you a toy.” Then Santa reached into his sack and pulled out a small present. As he handed it to the boy, Christian looked puzzled. “But I just saw you in the living room, Santa! How did you get here so quickly?”
“I didn’t. I just got here! You should make sure your Daddy cleans the chimney sometime—it’s pretty sooty this year!” The family room was rather dark, but in the moonlight Christian could see Santa’s curly white beard. He wore the same red suit, with its thick black belt and shiny buckle, but this Santa was a little thinner than in the living room. It was very puzzling.
“Here,” said Santa, again motioning with the toy in his hand. It was obviously too small to be a mountain bike, but it was exactly the video game that Christian wanted! “Oh boy!” cried Christian, who started jumping up and down.
Then Santa was gone again. When he suddenly disappeared, Christian stopped his little dance and looked puzzled again.
Then there was another thump! This time it came from somewhere else in the house, but for a moment he wasn’t sure where. It wasn’t from the living room, where the biggest fireplace was, or from the family room, where he was standing now. Maybe it was from the guest room, which had its own fireplace, a bit smaller than the one in the family room.
Cautiously Christian crept down the stairs, closer to the guest room, carrying his teddy bear and video game. This year there were no visitors in the guest room, so Christian opened the door and looked at the fireplace. Nothing. The room was dark and still. Then there was another thump, behind the end of the bed. Santa stood up, holding something. Santa had lost a lot of weight! And so quickly, too!
“Hey Christian, you’re supposed to be in bed!” said Santa, laughing quietly. “But it’s okay, I brought you a present.” He handed him a small box that looked very puzzling to Christian. He didn’t know what it was. “Be careful,” said Santa. Christian sat down on the floor, opened a flap at one end of the box, and pulled out . . . a large crystal bowl.
“How boring,” thought Christian, his eyes wrinkled in confusion. “This is something that old people get for Christmas!” And just when he looked up to grumble about it to Santa, he saw that he was gone.
“How strange,” Christian thought to himself. “Now I have my old teddy bear, a video game, and a glass bowl. I don’t want teddy bears any more, and what am I going to do with this glass bowl?”
Christian didn’t have an answer. However, as he sat there on the floor of the guest room, he listened carefully. He had heard three thumps, each one coming from a different fireplace in the house. But there was one fireplace left—in his parents’ room! He sat very still, listening to see if he could hear another thump, but he heard nothing but the wind that still buffeted the house and the pines and fir trees outside.
“Maybe if I went closer, I could hear Santa coming down the fourth chimney!” Christian decided, gently picking up the crystal bowl in its box, the video game on top of the box, and his teddy bear on top of that. Once he was back upstairs, he slid his feet along the wood floor in the hall until he decided that was making too much noise.
In front of his parents’ door, Christian stopped and listened closely. Nothing—no thumping at all. He balanced his three presents in one arm and carefully opened the door. He knew he wasn’t supposed to do this, but he didn’t want to miss Santa coming down this chimney. His Mummy and Daddy were fast asleep in their giant king-size bed. Christian put down his presents by the fireplace, and then sat down next to it to wait for Santa. Hopefully the red dude would bring him a better present than an old teddy bear or a round glass bowl. He wanted his mountain bike!
But nothing happened. Christian waited and waited. The fireplace was dark and quiet, though sometimes he could hear the cold night wind heaving at the flue at the top of the chimney far above, the moon painting a faint whiteness against the curtains. Soon, though, Christian’s eyes grew tired and he fell fast asleep. Santa was nowhere to be found.
In the morning, Christian was in bed between his parents. He awoke just before they did—and it was Christmas morning! He sat up sharply and looked at the fireplace. “What is it, Christian?” his mother asked.
“Santa! Did he come to your chimney?” Christian replied.
“What do you mean?” said Mummy.
“Last night Santa came three times, down each of the other chimneys. He must have come to your fireplace too! Didn’t he?”
“I didn’t hear anything,” said Daddy, who was now waking up, too.
“And he gave me three gifts, including my new video game!” Christian exclaimed. “Can I play it?”
“Not just now,” said Daddy. “What else did Santa bring you?”
“He brought me my old teddy bear! And a big glass bowl. But I don’t want those!”
“Why not?” asked Mummy.
“’Cause I can’t play with a bowl, and I don’t play with teddy bears anymore.”
“How odd,” said Daddy. “I wonder why he gave you those.”
“Yeah! I don’t want a bowl or stuffed animal,” said Christian, “just a video game—and a mountain bike.”
“Well, it’s nice that Santa brought you a video game, isn’t it? Where is it?”
Christian looked for his three gifts, and there they were, set beside the fireplace. Then Christian looked sad all of a sudden.
“Santa didn’t come here,” Christian said. “I thought he would come a fourth time, down your chimney, but he didn’t. He didn’t bring me a mountain bike—where’s my mountain bike?”
“Well,” Mummy said, pulling Christian close to her, “maybe Santa doesn’t bring you everything you want all the time. Sometimes you get things that Santa wants you to have. Or sometimes he wants you to think about Christmas and how fortunate you are to have the things that you’ve had in the past or that you might get in the future. Don’t you think that’s true?”
Christian didn’t know what to think, but skipped out of the room, picking up his video game, leaving the teddy bear and crystal bowl behind. Later in the morning, after breakfast, when it was time to open gifts under the tree, Christian came into the living room with his video game. Everyone in the family took turn opening gifts, including Christian’s little brother Eric, and Mummy and Daddy.
Christian didn’t get a mountain bike, but he did get some new clothes for school, a book about different jobs that people do when they grow up, and some new Lego. Eric got new clothes, too, and a play cell phone and other toys. After they were all done opening gifts, Christian sat on the floor, all his presents around him, with a mountain of wrapping paper nearby—but no mountain bike. He was strangely quiet.
“Okay, time for Christmas dinner,” said Mummy. “Let’s clean up all the boxes and go eat!”
“Wait a minute,” said Christian. “I don’t think we’re done!” Then he disappeared down the hall, and came back carrying two gifts. He set them down on the couch, then picked up one of them.
“This is for you, Eric,” Christian said, and handed him the teddy bear.
“And this is for you, Mummy and Daddy,” said Christian, as he handed the beautiful crystal bowl to his parents.
“Fank you,” said Eric, his mouth half full of red and green goldfish crackers.
“Thank you, Christian,” said Mummy.
“Thank you, Mummy and Daddy! And thank you to Santa for bringing these gifts so I could share them with you!”
Outside, it seemed that the wind was no longer howling, and a gentle snow was just beginning to fall. Christian’s tummy was growling, so he was glad it was time for Christmas dinner.