Merry Christmas everyone!
I’ve been playing around with the idea of writing a Christmas themed short story for a while now. Unfortunately, when I finally developed a story, December was nearly halfway done. However, I decided to start writing anyway and share as much as I could this holiday season. There’s been a lot going on in my life right now but it is so rewarding being able to share these stories with you. I will work hard to have the 2nd half posted as soon as possible!
I hope you enjoy!
Little Lisa only has one thing on her Christmas list this year: She wants Santa to bring her father back. But when a friend at school tells her that neither Santa nor her prayers will help her, Lisa decides to go look for him herself.
My name is Lisa and I’m 8 years old. But I’m sure you know that already because you know all the kids in the world. You also know that I have been very good this year, and the year before, and the year before. I’ve always gotten good food and toys on Christmas and so this year (because I’m SO GOOD) I have good news for you. I only want 1 thing for Christmas this year and you don’t have to build it or wrap it or anything. I would really really like it if you could bring my daddy here for Christmas. I’ve been very good and I pray all the time and ask God to bring him here but that hasn’t worked yet so I was hoping you could bring him as a present instead. His name is Samuel and I know he’s tall but that’s it so please put a label on his shirt so I know who he is.
P.S – I hope all is well at the North Pole.
Little Lisa put the finishing touches on her letter to Santa. She wasn’t one to brag, but she had to admit that she had outdone herself. The carefully penned letter was written on the best snowflake print paper she could find and was decorated in festive Christmas themed stickers all around the border. She hated the idea of folding it.
“Maybe” she thought, “I can find a big red or green envelope to put it in, so it won’t have to bend”. As Little Lisa looked about the art room, pondering over which form of delivery she should utilize, she didn’t notice her classmate, Jenny, leaning over her shoulder.
“You know that’s not going to work, right?” Jenny said with a snarky grin.
“No one asked you Jenny. And don’t read my letter!”
“There’s no point in asking Santa to bring your Daddy back. He’s not real.”
Now at this, Little Lisa gave pause. She had heard people saying that they didn’t believe in Santa Clause before and had questioned his existence herself. She just wanted so badly to see her Daddy this Christmas. In an attempt to save face, Little Lisa puffed out her chest.
“You don’t know that for sure.” Little Lisa retorted.
“Yes, I do.” Jenny said with an all-knowing grin. “Santa is just something adults made up to make kids behave during Christmas time. Your parents are the ones that buy you the presents. Then when they can’t deliver everything on your Christmas list, they have someone else to blame.”
Little Lisa stopped and considered what Jenny was saying. Although she hated the idea of admitting it, Jenny may have been on to something. Little Lisa often wondered if Santa worked for all the big toy companies because the presents never looked hand made. Some even had price tags on them. Still, Little Lisa was not willing to admit defeat to someone like Jenny.
“Well even if you’re right, and Santa Clause isn’t real, it still doesn’t hurt to make a letter. My mom will see it and then she’ll know what I want even without telling her. Or, you know, I can read it out loud while I’m saying my prayers.”
“That’s not going to work.”
“Yes it will!”
“No, it won’t!”
“Ladies!” The art teacher called from across the classroom. Their argument had drawn her attention. “Is there a problem back there?”
“No Ma’am.” Little Lisa responded with a hint of embarrassment. She and Jenny returned to their work, but what Jenny said bothered her. Eventually she turned back to Jenny and asked, “Why wouldn’t it work?”
“First of all,” Jenny began “Your mom is only going to give you what you want if it’s what SHE WANTS to give you. So if you’ve asked her before and she still hasn’t gotten it for you, she’s not going to. Second, you can’t pray for it because that doesn’t do anything. My older brother told me, God is just Santa for grown-ups. He’s something people made up a long time ago to make other people behave. And third, even if he WERE real, you can’t pray for a present! Dummy!”
“That’s not true!”
“Really? Which part?”
“All of it!”
“Oh yeah? Well then tell me,” Jenny leaned in, attempting to get another look at the letter. Little Lisa covers it protectively. “That thing that you’re asking Santa for, whatever it is, have you been praying for it? For how long? Haven’t gotten it yet, have you?”
“That doesn’t mean it’s not real! It’s just taking a while…” Little Lisa was arguing but doubt and unease were creeping in to her heart.
“Keep telling yourself that, baby.”
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” Little Lisa yelled. The sudden outburst caused everyone in the classroom stopped what they were doing to stare in shock.
“Lisa?” The art teacher called out with equal parts concern and annoyance. “Will you be continuing your art assignment here or do you need to be excused?”
“Sorry ma’am.” Little Lisa apologized curtly.
For the rest of the school day, Little Lisa sat quietly and kept to herself. She didn’t intend for Jenny’s words to affect her the way that they did, but her heart remained ill at ease for the rest of the day. Surely, she was lying. God was not Santa for grown-ups. Although she’d had her questions about Santa answering her letter, the idea that no one was listening to her prayers either; it made her feel far too hopeless.
Little Lisa boarded the school bus with these thoughts running through her head. All around, the children celebrated the start of their winter break but not Little Lisa. Doubt was creeping into her heart with each unresolved question. Why did her dad leave in the first place? Where has he been? Was asking God to bring him back too much to ask? And if not, why hadn’t her prayers been answered yet?
When the bus arrived at her stop, Little Lisa exited feeling more confused and hopeless than ever. She didn’t want her mom to see her upset, so she tried her best to put on a smile, but the face that greeted her wasn’t her mom. Darnel, her mom’s current boyfriend, leaned casually against the street sign talking to someone on his phone as he waved her over.
Little Lisa liked Darnell. He was nice. All of her mom’s boyfriends were. Some more than others, but in general, they were all nice in their own ways. Darnell was her favorite so far but Lisa knew not to get attached.
Boyfriends eventually leave. Her dad was one of her mother’s boyfriends too. That’s why he wasn’t around.
Darnell rustled Little Lisa’s hair as she came closer. She hated that, and Darnell knew it. Little Lisa had come to the conclusion that, like most of the boys in school, he annoyed her to show her that he liked her. Little Lisa pat her hair back down into place.
“Hey Little Lisa, you excited for Christmas break?” Darnell asked, turning his mouth briefly away from the phone.
“Yeah I guess.” Little Lisa replied. Her attempts to hide her feelings weren’t working and she knew it. Darnell gave her a concerned look.
“Mildred, you mind if I give you a call back? Thanks. I’ll be in touch.” Darnell said, finishing his phone conversation. As he hung up the phone, he took a close look at Little Lisa. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing.” Little Lisa insisted, shuffling her fee along the pavement.
“Your face is saying something different… but if you don’t want to talk about it, I won’t make you.” He said, but his face was saying something different too.
Little Lisa looked at Darnell’s expectant face and wondered if it would be better to ask him or her mother about what was on her mind. Every time she brought up her dad, her mom’s face would scrunch up. Darnell was easy to talk to. Maybe, Little Lisa thought, it was a fortunate thing that Darnell was here instead.
“Darnell?” Little Lisa started. “Is God real or is he like Santa for grown ups?”
“Someone at school say that?’” He asked without flinching. She wasn’t sure why, but the fact that he didn’t seem mortified by her question put her at ease.
“Jenny in my class said so. I was writing a letter to Santa because I wanted him to bring me – “ But Lisa thought twice about revealing what she wanted. She was sure Darnell wouldn’t mind but for some reason, she suddenly felt very protective of her Christmas wish. “I wanted something. Something mom can’t buy. I wasn’t sure if Santa was real but I wrote the letter anyway because I’ve been praying for it for a long time but it hasn’t happened yet. Jenny said neither one would work because both Santa and God are made up. Is that true?”
“Some people think so.”
At this Darnell finally paused. However, it wasn’t the shocked, ‘how dare you ask that’ kind of pause her mother would make when she’d ask for something in the grocery store. It wasn’t the guilty, ‘what kind of excuse can I come up with’ kind of pause her mom’s last boyfriend made when she asked if he any other girlfriends. Darnell’s pause was a deep thought kind of a pause. He often said things that sounded profound so when he finally opened his mouth to speak, Little Lisa was at full attention.
“I used to. When I was growing up, life was rough and church never seemed to do anything for me. I knew a lot of people who went to church and believed in God but, a lot of those people weren’t the best for me. Some of them got me in even more trouble than I already was, or they’d take advantage of me. I never ‘felt’ God in my life, I felt like I was on my own.”
“You don’t feel that anymore?”
“No. Not anymore.”
“Honestly? Your mom changed my mind. She has a different way of looking at the world and it kind of opened my eyes to the possibilities out there.” Darnell stopped and kneeled down beside her. “See, when I was your age, God was a man. A person who lived in the sky. He had a big white beard and giant hands that could drop down and touch something and make it happen. And he was directing every single event that happened in my life big or small. There are a lot of people who believe that that’s what God is, and other people who say that’s not possible, that it’s a fairy tail. I’ve come to see it a little differently.
“They say that our bodies are our temples and that the kingdom of heaven is within. I believe that God is in all things including us. You, me, your mom, everyone and everything. It’s what makes us able to be here, to be alive, to move. It’s what makes that tree able to grow and gives us the energy to wake up every morning.”
“I don’t get it.” Little Lisa scrunched up her face in confusion. Darnell was being profound again but she just wasn’t getting it.
“Let me put it this way… When you prayed for you gift, who were you talking to?”
“Oh, so he was sitting in the room with you, next to your doll babies?” Darnell asked in jest, his face in full pucker.
“No, silly. He was in heaven, listening.”
“Okay, I get it. So you died, went to heaven, knocked on his door, asked him for your wish, then came back to life in time to go to school.”
“No!” Little Lisa laughed. She wasn’t sure how, but Darnell always had a way of making the most serious conversations, funny.
“No? Really? You’re sure?”
“Okay, so then, let me ask again. When you were praying, where were you and who were you talking to?”
Little Lisa thought for a moment. Surely this was a trick. She supposed Darnell was looking for the most obvious answer.
“I was in my room,” Little Lisa answered. “I was alone. There was no one else there.”
“That’s not true little girl. You were talking to someone. You were talking to yourself. You close your eyes, bow your head, and talk to yourself, because that’s where God is. God is a living, breathing thing that lives inside you; in your heart, in your mind, in your guts!” Darnell said and poked her stomach. “He’s always there, every minute of every day, He can hear you. He can see what’s in your heart because He’s right there making sure it’s still pumping, making sure everything moves the way it needs to. So when you need help from above, look inward. There are no hands that will magically appear in the sky. God’s hands are your hands. He can give you the energy to move, but you have to be the one that actually gets up and takes the steps.”
“I think I get it now.” Little Lisa nods with understanding. “So, that’s the truth then?”
“Maybe. I can’t tell you that for sure but it’s what I believe. It’s what I feel in my heart. Sorry I can’t give you a more concrete answer.”
“No, it’s okay. I like it. Maybe, God heard me after all, but nothing happened because, I kept waiting and didn’t do anything. Maybe, I can make my own wish come true.”
“Maybe Little Lisa. Maybe. Just stay within the confines of the law okay?”
Little Lisa laughed again. “Okay.” She smiled.
Darnell stood up and together the pair continued their walk towards home. She was feeling a little better now, a little more hopeful. However, a thought sat unrelenting in the back of her mind. Little Lisa stopped.
“Yes?” He answered. Concern was showing on his face again.
Little Lisa pulled her book bag off and grabbed her letter from it’s deep depths. Despite what Jenny said, Little Lisa still managed to find a large envelope to place her letter in and had even addressed and drawn a stamp on it. Although she was embarrassed, she still handed it to Darnell.
“Could we still mail this? Just in case?”
Darnell took the carefully crafted letter and examined it, impressed by it’s detail.
“Sure. Nothing wrong with having a backup plan. You stand right here, don’t move.” Darnell said before sprinting across the street. Little Lisa watched him jog to the end of the corner where there was a mailbox and slip the letter inside.
Little Lisa felt better knowing that the letter was on it’s way somewhere but she was no longer content to sit and wait.
She was determined now more than ever. If she wanted her dad home for Christmas, she’d bring him there herself.
That evening, Lisa could hardly concentrate from excitement. The task of finding her dad and bringing him home for Christmas was a daunting one but after careful consideration, she had come up with a plan of attack. She simply had to wait until everyone was asleep. This was a feat unto itself since her bedtime was so much earlier than theirs. Little Lisa tried to distract herself with thoughts of what she would do once her dad came back.
Maybe they’d go play games, or he could drive her around in his car and they’d sing along to Christmas songs on the radio. Maybe they’d go to an amusement park together or to the movies. Maybe, she dared to hope; he’d decide he liked her enough to stay. These thoughts played over and over in Little Lisa’s head.
When she looked over at her clock, the digital numbers flashed: 4:47. She had fallen asleep! Lisa jumped up with a start. She didn’t even remember falling asleep. But maybe she could still pull this off. She knew her mother was probably asleep but she wasn’t sure if Darnell had spent the night or not. Usually, he’s gone long before she wakes up because he works very early in the morning and is finished in the afternoon. Because she’s never been awake to see him leave, Little Lisa wasn’t sure how early was early.
Little Lisa tip toed to the door and opened it slightly. There were no lights on anywhere that she could see. That was a promising sign. Emboldened, Little Lisa creeped out the door and walked quietly towards her mother’s bedroom door. She could hear her mother’s loud breathing on the other side. Her mother swore up and down that she didn’t snore. Little Lisa wondered how loud you had to breath in your sleep before it was considered snoring. The sound was comforting on that evening. As long as she heard it, Little Lisa was safe and her mother was sleeping, unaware of her presence.
Little Lisa cracked the door open slowly, trying hard not to make too much extra noise. Her mother’s snoring stopped for a moment. Little Lisa froze. Slowly the snoring returned and she continued her mission. Her mother’s laptop was on the nightstand, right next to her. Little Lisa gradually approached her mother’s bed. Her mother was still young and pretty, Little Lisa thought to herself. She felt inclined to hug her, but thought better of it. She was about to do something she wasn’t supposed to do. Better not to wake her.
Little Lisa watched her mother’s face for signs of waking as she grabbed the laptop. Once it was in her hands, she sprinted out the room, down the hall, and didn’t stop until she was safely in her bed. Little Little Lisa opened the laptop and plugged in her mother’s password. She knew the password to open the computer: checkereddancer1981. Hopefully, it was her password for other things as well. She opened the web browser and noticed a Facebook quick button in the corner. No password necessary. Little Lisa was in. Step two was now complete.
Little Lisa looked through tons of her mother’s Facebook photos. There were hundreds of them! Most were of the two of them or her mother’s friends. Every time Little Lisa saw a picture of her mother with another man, she’d click on it and check the post date. Little Lisa was born 8 years ago, so she needed to find pictures of a man from that time. The task seemed simple enough, but after searching and searching, Little Lisa wasn’t sure how to proceed. She couldn’t find any pictures with her mother and another man. At least, not one from 8 years ago.
Fearing that this plan wasn’t going to work, Little Lisa started scrolling through every picture. She stopped on a baby picture of herself. She knew it was her baby picture because the caption at the bottom said so. She was newly born and wrapped in a pink blanket and sleeping. That’s when she noticed it. The picture was tagged multiple times. All the ones tagged by her mother were blue, the ones tagged by other people were black. There was one black tag on the picture. The name read: Samuel Little.
It made sense. Samuel Little. Little Lisa. She’d apparently gotten the nickname years ago when she was first learning to read. Her mother was filling out her application for kindergarten and read her name as Little, Lisa. Her mother told her that was her legal name. So, when her kindergarten teachers asked her, she said, “My legal name is Little Lisa”. Apparently, all the adults thought it was adorable and she’s been Little Lisa ever since.
Little Lisa hovered over the tag. There was no profile attached to it, however it did give some information. A woman named Agatha Little, apparently, created the tag. This woman did have a profile but it was private. With no other leads, Little Lisa decided to send the woman a message:
My name is Lisa. I am 8 years old and I am trying to find my daddy for Christmas. His name is Samuel and you tagged him on my baby picture. If you know him, could you tell him to come to my house so I can meet him?
After reading over the message a few times, Little Lisa was satisfied.
Now, all Little Lisa had to do was put the laptop back before her mother woke up. Then, the waiting game would begin anew.
However, this waiting game was significantly shorter than the last. Little Lisa was enjoying her peaceful, lazy morning. Her favorite shows were showing Christmas specials and there was no school. Her mother was prepping Christmas dinner and the house smelled amazing. Everything seemed to be going very well.
“Lisa. Come in here please.” Little Lisa heard her mother call from the kitchen.
“Be right there.”
The sudden change in tone was not lost on Little Lisa. There was a problem. Little Lisa got up and walked guiltily into the kitchen. ‘She knows I took her laptop without asking’ she thought. Or maybe it was something else entirely. Maybe she left a sock in the kitchen. Little Lisa hoped that it was something like that.
When she entered the kitchen, Little Lisa saw her mom. She looked upset, but not the angry kind. It was the upset face adults made when they were angry but were trying to hide it. Little Lisa hated that kind of upset look more than anything because it made her feel guilty.
“Lisa did you use my Facebook this morning?” Her mother asked. Although she posed it as a question, Little Lisa knew it wasn’t. Her ears prickled.
“Yes.” She answered honestly.
“So you snuck into my room, took my laptop without asking, went on to my Facebook and sent a message to someone you didn’t know. What would make you think that was okay?”
“I just…” Little Lisa struggled through her guilt to respond. Her stomach was twisting in knots and, by now, she could feel heat rising off her skin.
“You just what?” Her mother asks, the impatience in her voice growing. “Well, answer me.”
“I just really wanted to meet my dad. I thought, if I could find him and ask him to come, that maybe he would.”
“Lisa, you can’t just… You have to run things like this by me first.”
“I tried before but whenever I ask you about my dad you start talking about something else. I didn’t think you’d help me…” Little Lisa tried her best not to sound accusatory.
“You ever think there might be a reason for that?” Her mother snapped back. The harshness in her tone caused Little Lisa to flinch. “Your father… he isn’t in a position to see you and the people around him, a lot of them aren’t the kind of people you want in your life. You can’t just start sending people messages, telling our family business!”
“I didn’t know, you never said anything about that!” With the raising tone of her mother’s voice, Little Lisa was growing more and more upset. She hated the way it felt when her mother was angry with her. Helpless frustrated tears rolled down Little Lisa’s cheeks. “I wasn’t trying to be bad, I just wanted to see my dad! Just once!”
Little Lisa cried meekly in the middle of the kitchen. Her mother looked on at her child, her resolve to be angry crumbling. Little Lisa’s mother pulled Little Lisa’s head into her chest and held it there. From where she was, Little Lisa was aware of two things. Her mother’s heartbeat was going very fast, and her mother’s phone was on the counter. The screen was going dark, but Little Lisa could make out some of what was on the screen. It was her Facebook; and a long angry looking message was on the screen. Although she couldn’t make out everything there were a lot of words and sentences in all CAPS and some of them were curse words.
Little Lisa felt bad. Had she caused someone to say mean things to her mother? Had she gotten her in trouble?
“I’m sorry mommy.” She apologized.
“It’s okay. I understand.” Her mother’s tone had changed. She was being much more gentle and it put Little Lisa at ease.
“I’ll figure something out. Just, don’t take my things without asking, okay? Do it again and your grounded.”
“Go on, go watch t.v. I’ll call you if I need you.” Her mother said, pushing her in the direction of the living room.
As Little Lisa left, she caught a glimpse of her mother wiping away fresh tears from her own face before she turned and faced the stove.
Little Lisa felt terrible for the rest of the day. Not only was it seemingly impossible to get her Christmas wish, she’d made her mother cry trying to get it. When Darnell came by later that afternoon, Little Lisa had nothing to say. After all, he’d been the one that encouraged her to take matters into her own hands. Darnell seemed to notice the tense atmosphere and spent the next few hours in the kitchen with her mother.
That night, Little Lisa’s mother and Darnell called her to the dinner table. They were both sitting down, looking very serious.
“Have a seat.” Little Lisa’s mom said. Little Lisa nervously took a seat across from the two adults. Unsure of whether or not she was about to be punished, Little Lisa sat in stony silence.
“Relax Little Lisa. It’s fine. Your mom has something she wants to say.” As usual, Darnell’s voice seemed to calm the tense atmosphere. She didn’t know how he did it, but she was always grateful for it.
“Darnell told me you two had a little talk yesterday.” Her mother began. “And considering what happened today; I realized that maybe… I’ve been wrong.”
The silence that followed was such that you could hear a pin drop in the next room. Little Lisa looked at her mother shocked. Did she really just say, what she thought she said?
“You were?” Was Little Lisa’s confounded reply.
“You better mark the date and time Little Lisa, you’re never going to hear her say those words again.” Darnell said, cracking a smile.
“Shut up Darnell.” Her mother quipped. “Yes, I was wrong. I was trying to protect you but I wasn’t being fair. Your dad and I have a complicated history and I don’t really like talking about it. There are people and a life that surrounds him that I don’t want anywhere near you. Still, it’s only normal that you’d want to know more about your dad. So, if you’re up for it, tomorrow we can head out early and go visit him.”
Little Lisa jumped from her seat with excitement. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It worked! Her Christmas wish was really about to come true. Little Lisa ran around the table and hugged her mother tight.
“We’re going to have to get up really early. We have a long drive and it’ll be Christmas eve so there’s probably going to be a lot of traffic.”
“It’s okay, I can get up early! Thank you mommy.”
“Thank Darnell. He’s the one that’s putting this all together. I just plan to be there to support you. I don’t want you to get your hopes up. He might not be what you’re expecting. I just don’t want you to be disappointed.”
“I won’t. Thank you mommy. Thank you Darnell.”
“We’ve got your back.” Darnell smiles.
Little Lisa could hardly contain her excitement. She was finally going to meet her dad.