the child Santa forgot

Jane’s parents didn’t celebrate Christmas, but the media did. There was money to be made. From mid-November onward, Jane’s world was saturated with the spirit of Christmas. Santa always came through. A miracle for every child. Presents for everyone!

“Don’t worry,” her strange Aunt Ellie promised Jane, every year, “I’ll make sure Santa finds ya.” Her mind, Mum said, got hurt when Aunt Ellie was young. “Santa’s a magic fellow. He would never miss a girl like you.”

Like magic, there would be a festive envelope waiting on Christmas morning, tucked beneath Jane’s pillow where her parents would never see it.

An envelope stuffed full of expired coupons.

Buy one pizza, get another pizza free, expired October 7th. Twenty dollars off a round of golf at The Meadows. Good until August 22nd. Jane would pore over them, looking for some twisted pattern, a reason why Santa left those particular coupons. A clue to tell her what she had done wrong to anger him so.

It wasn’t until Jane was eight or nine that she realized the envelopes were from Ellie, stocked with the best intentions her broken mind could muster.

Jane continued to struggle with Christmas as an adult. She decorated trees and played Santa for her own kids, forcing herself into rituals she didn’t understand, or love, or care to. The smudge of old shame clung to the season like grime to a roadside snowbank. But she watched.

She watched for the children Santa was forgetting. Taking care to send them magic in whatever way she could. Sometimes it was a spare candy cane, or a coin left in their path, a toy tucked inside a hollow tree to be found some distant day. Passes to the zoo, ones that never expired, tucked inside an open backpack pouch.

She did it for Ellie, who Jane supposed had the idea in the first place. She did it for herself, to prove she could make her own magic, and she did it for the kids, because Santa wasn’t going to.