As Alex was putting ornaments on her Christmas tree, she found an old ornament with a fading Polaroid of her and Santa from the second grade. The day before the school had let out for Christmas break, her second grade teacher, Mrs West, had given the class a special activity— to write letters to Santa Claus. Alex wrote, “Dear Santa, I have been a good girl this year. I would like Orko, a Cabbage Patch Kid, a dollhouse, and a teddy bear for my baby brother. Thank you, Alex Wesley.” As she put her pencil down, she heard jingle bells coming from the hallway. “Ho, Ho, Ho!” Santa Claus said as he walked in to their classroom. Alex and the other kids were so excited. They each took turns sitting on Santa's lap and reading him their letters. Mrs West took a photo of each of the kids with Santa, and when he left, they made frames out of popsicle sticks and decorated them with red and green glitter. They wrapped their ornaments in Christmas wrapping paper and took them home as gifts to their parents. Alex remembered how proud her mom was to open the gift and hang the ornament on the Christmas tree. She put it in front toward the top of the Christmas tree and showed it to everyone who came over.
When Alex found the ornament she made in her third grade classroom, she suddenly remembered the heartbreak she felt that Christmas. She was riding the the bus, and at a red light, she looked out the window and saw Santa driving a station wagon. She yelled out to the other kids, “Look! It’s Santa Claus!” The kids were so excited that they rushed over to her side of the bus to get a glimpse of him. But then, Brooke Sawyer from the fifth grade yelled, “Just relax, everybody! It isn't real. Santa isn’t real.” Devastated and confused, Alex went home sobbing and asked her mom if what Brooke had said was true. Her mom told her that while Santa didn't deliver gifts to their house, the spirit of Christmas was very real. Alex remembered the way her mom pulled her up in her lap at that moment and sang Christmas carols to her as she rubbed her back. She suddenly missed the way her mom could take away all her tears.
As Alex hung other ornaments on her tree, she realized that since her mom had died many years before, Christmas had become less and less magical and that she had lost the spirit of Christmas. She had avoided family gatherings at Christmas because she couldn't face the pain she knew she would feel without her mom's presence. She had always gone through the motions of Christmas -- decorating her tree each year, attending Christmas parties and sending Christmas cards, but she realized that her new traditions did not give her the same sense of Christmas spirit she had always felt when her mom was around.
She thought about the things growing up that had always put her in the Christmas spirit. Her family always spent a lot of time together during the Christmas season. As they decorated the tree with all their favorite ornaments, her mom would tell her and her brother stories about each ornament. Alex remembered the lighting of the advent candles at the Christmas Eve service at the church and how the sanctuary glowed from everyone's candles while they sang Silent Night. She remembered how her mom’s hand felt on her shoulder as she stood next to her. She always hugged Alex when Silent Night ended and they blew out their candles. And on Christmas morning, even when Alex knew that it wasn't Santa who delivered the gifts to their house, her stocking was always full of her favorite treats.
Alex realized then that her mom would want more than anything for her to feel her Christmas spirit again. She closed her eyes and imagined her mom's love and warmth embracing her, and at that moment, Alex felt some of the spirit her mom had given her each Christmas. It was the first hint of Christmas spirit she had felt in years. Alex put some Christmas music on and finished decorating the tree. And when she was done, she sat in front of the tree, took a deep breath and called her brother to see if he wanted to spend Christmas with her that year. Just hearing his voice warmed her heart and gave her a little more of the Christmas spirit she had missed for so many years.
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