Every year, I still get excited about Christmas. It inspires hope in me of the world being a better place. It’s a chance to show those you love how well you know them, remind them of how greatly you appreciate and are thankful of their love and friendship. A chance of finding and giving forgiveness to put things right for the new year.

My siblings always took great glee in teasing me and bonded in their derision of my enthusiasm for the holidays. I was that dorky kid who delighted in seeing Santa Claus each year and hoped that my mother would let me go more than once. This was a tradition with my mother and I until I was 12. That year she said it would be the last (or maybe I did) either way, that was smart of her, pubescent girls with big knockers shouldn’t be sitting on a stranger’s lap, especially one with a beard and prison tats on his hands.

This last time I made a wish to Santa was in front of a shabby Rite Aid to a frozen, polyester clad drunk sitting on his “throne” aloft a plywood trailer stranded on cinder blocks. He smelled like Dial soap and menthol cigarettes. An unsettling combination that reminded me of home minus the cheap gin smell (but I wouldn’t be able to identify that until a few years later). My mother stood in the cold, smiling and waiting, looking a bit uncomfortable but supportive nonetheless.

The degenerate mythical creature asked me what I wanted and before I could respond he piped in, “Aren’t you a little old to be doing this?” I looked over at my mother who smiled brightly at me. It was foolish of me to keep up the tradition and drag my mother along on what precious free time she had on her day off so I could sit on some potential sex offender’s lap when really all she wanted was to finish her Christmas shopping and go out for Thai food. I didn’t blame her.

I jerked the candy cane from the douchebag’s hand and mumbled a thanks. My Mom met me at the bottom of the rickety metal steps off the livestock trailer. “Sooo-what did you wish for?” She teased good-naturedly. I couldn’t tell her the truth. Couldn’t tell her that I wished that bum of a Santa would fall off the trailer and snap his neck. That I wished every year for her to be happy, to leave my dad and have him drop dead. That I hoped he had a will like rich people did in the movies and he would make us millionaires once he was a corpse. That, for once, I could be one of the cool kids in school and not one of the poor girls that the teachers looked at with pity and the kids made fun of. I pretended the cold didn’t bother me just so I wouldn’t have to wear the ugly coat I had.

“Sooo-? You-who, earth to Barb, did you hear me?” My brain scrambled back to reality and I chided myself for not preparing a response to her annual needling. “Just some sewing stuff, mom.” I was pretty sure Santa wouldn’t deliver divorce papers or put out a hit on a deadbeat, even if it was Christmas.

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