I posted this on livejournal the year after Dad died… and rather than write a new post, I’ll share it again, because there’s really nothing to add to it…
December was Magic Month in our house. It was Advent, which meant pretty pink and purple candles in a wreath on the dining room table, and competing with my brothers to see who could be the Goodest and win the night’s chocolate from the Advent Calendar. It was Fish Sticks and Dad’s Omelettes for friday dinners. It was putting our shoes in the windowsill on the night of December 5, and waking up to find our shoes gone, and a St. Nicholas Boot filled with Candy for each of us in their place.
When I was 8 or 9, I’d discovered a great love of reading. Nothing made me happier than to stay up late — sometimes til 10 even! — and read when I was supposed to be asleep. Nancy Drew, Happy Hollisters, Tom Swift, whatever books I could sneak out of Billy’s room… it didn’t matter, as long as I could read them. The night of December 5 was no different — in fact it felt GOOD to be up so late, being bad, daring St. Nicholas to catch me.
Instead I caught Dad. He was doing the best he could to walk softly, but I could hear him coming up the stairs and going into each of my brother’s rooms. I laid back and closed my eyes almost all the way, pretending to be asleep… and he walked into my room, carrying a beautiful White and Gold St. Nicholas Boot. I opened my eyes and said “Daddy?”
“God dammit to hell, you miserable crrreep, vy aren’t you asleep? You’ve rrruined St. Nicholas Day, you get nothing!”
He stomped out of the room, taking my beautiful boot with him. I started to cry, but he didn’t come back — and Mom didn’t come up the stairs to comfort me. I cried myself to sleep, hearing him stomp around downstairs as Mom talked to him in a low voice.
When I woke up in the morning, headachy and sniffly, the White and Gold St. Nicholas Boot was on the window sill, with some extra candy on the window sill next to it.* After breakfast, while Johnny was watching Mr. Rogers in the family room, Mom took me into the dining room and told me it was my job to keep the secret so Johnny could still have fun believing in Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus.
*The boot in the window the next morning? That was redemption and forgiveness. The extra candy was his apology. Dad had his own language, and its foundation was love.