A Christmas Visit
by Alvin G. Burstein
Eve and Randy made a point of reading aloud to their daughter, Virginia. Though they were familiar with the pediatric wisdom urging the benefits of so doing, that wasn’t their main reason for the practice. They genuinely enjoyed sitting with their daughter cuddled in one of their laps, wide eyes fixed alternately on the reader’s face and the pages being read. Such moments were thick with love.
Unsurprisingly, the ritual reading of choice on Christmas Eve was always Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas. This Christmas Eve Virginia was six, dressed in her favorite Charlie Brown flannel pajamas and pink bunny scuffs. She sat with her legs curled under her on her dad’s lap in their living room. The recently decorated tree blinked its lights, and at its foot were piled gifts.
As Randy was opening the familiar book, he looked over at Eve, “Do you want to read, honey, or should I?”
“You go ahead, Randy. I’ll listen while I knit.”
Randy cleared his throat, “Well, ‘ ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house….’ ” As her father launched into the familiar tale, Virginia began mouthing the well-known words under her breath, a happy smile on her face.
A few minutes later, as Randy came to the last line, he paused, letting Virginia join him in the concluding words, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
As she jumped off her dad’s lap and headed for her bedroom, Virginia turned back toward her parents.
“Mom, Dad, there really is a Santa Claus, isn’t there?”
Her parents’ eyes met for an instant before Eve responded, “Why are you asking, baby?”
“I don’t know. I just….” Virginia’s voice trailed off. “Will you come tuck me in?”
“Sure, sweetie. You get in bed and we’ll be right in for a good night kiss,” Randy promised.
After Virginia went upstairs to her bed room, Eve, her voice lowered, turned to her husband, “What should we tell her?”
“I’m not sure, Eve. She’s growing up.” Randy paused, then, “Look, let’s wait till after we open presents in the morning. Then we’ll see how she reacts.”
They headed to their daughter’s room for the good night kiss and tucking in. Just before closing Virginia’s door they chorused, “Good night, honey. Sleep tight.”
Virginia drifted off to sleep, only to waken hours later. She stretched and blinked her eye lids. Then she got out of bed, put on her scuffs, and crept down to the stairs to the darkened living room and curled up in the chair that had held her dad. Her breathing slowed, and her eyes slowly shut.
They flew open when she heard a scuffling noise overhead.
Could it be….?
The sound moved to the chimney. And in the fireplace appeared a chubby, red-suited, white-bearded man smoking a pipe and carrying a bag over his shoulder.
“Well, Virginia,” he said, big white teeth flashing in a smile, “I hear you have some doubts about me.”
“Oh Santa! You are real!” Virginia cried, her eyes like saucers.
“Indeed I am. And if you come over here, I will show you what I have for you in my bag.”
Virginia ran over to peer into the bag he held open for her. She ran so fast that she ran out of her pink scuffs.
* * *
Christmas morning, Randy and Eve discovered Virginia’s empty bed. Downstairs looking for her, they found the empty scuffs.
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Alvin G. Burstein
Alvin G. Burstein, a psychologist and psychoanalyst, is a professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee and a former faculty member of the New Orleans-Birmingham Psychoanalytic Center with numerous scholarly works to his credit. He writes a monthly movie review column, A Shrink at the Flics, for the e-newspaper, Psychology Times. He is a member of Inklings, a writers critique group that meets weekly to review its members’ imaginative writings. Burstein has published flash fiction and autobiographical pieces in e-zines; The Owl, his first novelette, is available at Amazon. He is a committed Francophile, unsurprisingly a lover of fine cheese and wine, and an unrepentant cruciverbalist.