We leapt from our beds as soon as we heard it, a tinkling, ringing music that yawned incessantly right outside our window; we’d never actually fallen asleep of course, simply lying awake in the darkness trying to control our breathing while listening for the twitter of sleigh bells. When it finally came it sounded different to us somehow, as though the merry jingling we’d hoped for had been replaced by a constant, screeching wail, but as the lights outside flashed bright and red across our faces, we lost ourselves in the expectation of unopened presents. As the noise grew closer, accompanied now by the crunching of snow, we imagined the tapping of reindeer’s hooves against the shingles, not the tread of heavy industrial tires churning through the slush in the street. The sleigh landed not above us but outside on the lawn, and as the men, his helpers, made their way through the front door instead of the chimney, we strained from upstairs to see all the things they’d brought for us. We were disappointed moments later when they emerged, carrying between them a motionless slab draped beneath a black rubber sheet. As they loaded the package onto the back of their sleigh and raced off towards the city, we smiled to ourselves that they didn’t stop to visit any of our neighbors.
In the morning, our father would tell us that we’d seen nothing, that the men in their dark blue uniforms—so unlike Santa’s—had come only to pick up a delivery, a table that had broken and needed to be taken somewhere—“To the factory?”—to be repaired. He would never tell us, even as we tore through shiny layers of wrapping paper, why Mommy never came down for breakfast that Christmas.