The twins had already drifted off to sleep while my wife cuddled with them on the couch, still watching the classic black and white Christmas movie that I not all that interested in. I was basically going through the motions, as I had been all Christmas Day. I tried to put on a merry face but inside, I felt like a failure as a father and as a husband. We had hoped that this year would be when we finally celebrated Christmas in our own house. With a yard, and maybe a puppy for the kids. But instead, we were still stuck all together in this tiny one-bedroom apartment. And worse, I was not sure we would even be able to afford this place much longer. Once again, despite my best efforts, I was not able to grant a Christmas wish for my family.
“I’m going to get some air,” I told my wife as I got up and walked out the door. Walking down the street, I absent-mindedly tossed a few coins into a kettle where a man dressed as Santa Claus stood, ringing a bell. I did not give it much thought, but I did think it slightly odd. Didn’t they usually do the bell ringing before Christmas? I did not remember them ever doing the bell-ringing on Christmas Day or after.
“So, it seems that once again, you need the gift of perspective,” I heard a voice behind me say.
I turned and looked and realized it was my old friend, Santa Claus, the real one.
“You seem to be focused on the wishes that did not come true for you. Without realizing the bigger picture and maybe even being grateful for such disappointments. Let’s take another one of our little trips, shall we?”
And in a flash, we were back in my childhood home. I watched a Christmas that had been scarring as a child, or at least in the overdramatic mindset of a young child. There had been a gift I wanted more than anything. Now, I can no longer recall what the specific gift even was. All I remember was the crushing disappointment when I did not receive it. Santa and I arrived just in time to see my tantrum when I realized I would not be receiving the toy. I refused to listen to my parents’ explanations that the particular toy I had wanted was extremely dangerous.
“They were always overly cautious, ” I muttered to Santa.
“Maybe, “Santa said, “but in this case, they were definitely right. That toy you wanted was recalled a couple of years later because of how many serious injuries it caused. And suddenly, we were standing in in a hospital room in a vision of what might have been, where my young body was fighting for Lite, while any parents kept vigil. Perhaps not getting that toy was for the best.
As I came to that realization, we were suddenly in a different place and time from my past. We were transported to my old high school at the annual Christmas dance.
*Oh, this one is painful, n I winced as the scene kindled a memory.
“There you are in the corner,” Santa pointed to my younger self talking with a pretty girl. “A good friend of yours, right?”
“You know full well the answer to that question,” I huffed. The pain came back to me. She had been, and to this day, still is, one of my best friends. But that year in school, I had wanted to be more than friends. We went to the Christmas dance together and I confessed my feelings. They were not reciprocated, and teenaged heart was broken. it was a miserable Christmas as I sulked for the next month. However, over time, we got past the awkwardness and resumed our close friendship that spring.
“Now, let’s see what would have happened had she agreed to your request.” We then witnessed another Christmas, two years later, one that thankfully never actually happened. She was home from college for Christmas break, and the distance and jealousy had taken their toll on our relationship. Tears and insults flew and our relationship, as well as our friendship, ended forever.
“If you had gotten your wish, you would have permanently lost one of the greatest friends in your life.” Santa had gentle sympathy in his voice while making the observation, and I silently nodded.
The next Christmas from my life that we visited found me waiting by the phone. As I saw the nervous excitement on my face, looking at the phone every two minutes, the memory of this Christmas was yet another gut punch. I was waiting to hear back about my dream job. I had interviewed for it a few weeks prior, and they said they would let me know before their Christmas break. It was the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and I still had not heard from them.
Even though I knew how the call would go, when the phone rang, I felt myself getting a twinge of excitement. The look on my younger self’s face upon receiving the bad news reminded me of just how painful that rejection had been. It was yet another Christmas wish I had prayed for that did not come true.
“I had wanted that job so badly, ” I whined to Santa.
“I know,” he said. “But can I ask you, when would you have started that job if you had gotten it?”
“Well, I was going to have to move, but I think they said the start date would have been the beginning of February.”
“And what were you doing that first weekend in February instead?”
“I don’t remember. That was ten years ago.” I snapped.
“Well, let’s check it out, shall we?” And soon I saw myself at a party, the party where I first met my wife. “If you had gotten that job and moved, do you think you would have met your wife and had the twins?”
I did not answer, instead, my eyes were fixed on the beautiful woman at that party, who for some mysterious reason, would later agree to spend me rest of her life with me. She faded from view and soon Santa and I were outside the apartment I shared with this incredib1e woman and our two children.
“Sometimes,” Santa softly told me, “The things we wish for the most would be the things that prevent us from the those that would actually give us the truest joy. We need to be grateful for those wishes that didn’t come true, and in turn, allowed even greater wishes to be fulfilled. Merry Christmas my friend!”
And with that, Santa disappeared, and I entered the apartment that was somehow big enough to hold everything my heart could ever want. They were all asleep now, so I gently kissed them each on the top of their heads. I thanked God for blessing me with something far greater than anything I could have ever wished for. And I also gave thanks for all the ungranted wishes in life that let me to this very Merry Christmas.