Updated: Jan 14, 2021
The air in the greenhouse was warm and humid, a stark contrast to the world outside. Beyond the well-insulated walls, a snowstorm raged in the dark making it impossible to go outside. So I stayed inside, enjoying the warmth of the cavern-like room filled with plants from all over the globe.
It took years to fill this room with life until it resembled a rainforest. Some of the plants in here were pretty common, such as the Aloe vera and tomatoes, while others were a bit more exotic, such as the Ginkgo biloba tree. That tree resided in the center of the room and towered over many of the other plants here.
High up in its branches, surrounded by the bright green, fan-shaped leaves was a little house that Nicholas had built for Fidela. As I roamed around the room tending to plants, the sounds of her laughing and playing followed me.
She was only six, and she hadn’t been in my life long. So many years had been spent alone that I’d grown accustomed to the silence and isolation. My isolation had been so powerful that I never once thought of having kids or a family. Then I met Nicholas, and over time, I began exploring the world and the feeling of companionship once again. In time, we had Fidela and I couldn’t imagine going back to the silence of my past. She brought warmth and excitement to our lives that I could never live without.
Just yesterday, she brought us joy in a very unexpected way. We’d gone to a Christmas party with friends who were kind enough to wait until December twenty-sixth for the get-together since Nicholas and I had to work on Christmas Eve.
While there, Fidela got to spend time with her friend. The two played with their stuffed animals and managed to get their hands onto some makeup, which they quickly applied to everything they could, including some of their uncles.
After dinner, the two of them asked to put on a Christmas movie. Neither her father nor I were moviegoers, both of us preferred more traditional forms of storytelling, so the time between her movie experiences was stretched out pretty far. As such, Fidela wasn’t entirely prepared for what she saw on the screen.
Her prismatic eyes sparkled and she clutched a white, furry fox plush to her chest as she watched the characters with wonder. She became especially enamored by the depiction of Santa Claus, which her father and I found to be very entertaining, and shocking as well. Our friends got quite a bit of enjoyment out of the revelation.
As I tucked her into bed that night, she asked why Santa never visited us for Christmas. I told her we didn’t need a Santa Claus because we had Daddy. She thought for a moment and admitted that Daddy was great, but that she still wanted to meet Santa because he was amazing and magical.
She had no idea.
That night, Nicholas and I discussed the little conundrum we found ourselves in. We hadn’t realized the situation we’d caused. Fidela didn’t know that Nicholas, her father, was Santa!
We figured it had to do with the magic that Nicholas and I used to keep his identity a secret from the rest of the world. The spell had a sort of Superman-effect on his appearance. It made him look like someone he wasn’t. If people saw him while working, they’d see the iconic visage of Santa Claus. When people who knew him better saw him, they just saw Nicholas. Any other day of the year, he could go out into the world and no one would ever know that he flew a sled pulled by reindeer around the world in a single night. As such, Fidela never looked for Santa Claus and so she only ever saw her father.
We decided it was time to change that. Fidela was smart for her age and more than capable of keeping a secret. With the plants taken care of for the day, I headed to the base of the Ginkgo tree and called up to my daughter.
“Fidela, Do you want to go see what daddy is doing before we have lunch?”
Her head popped out of a window to peer down at me with large eyes. “Yes!”
She scrambled down from the treehouse as I watched with bated breath, ready to catch her if she fell, but as always, her footing remained steady as she climbed. Once she safely set foot on the ground, we walked hand in hand through the halls toward the stables.
Like every other part of our home, the stables were inside and very well insulated. The enormous space provided enough room to take care of the reindeer and train them when need be. Nicholas stood in the center of the room, a clicker in hand as he worked with the reindeer on their take-off and landing. Aside from working with flying reindeer, he looked nothing like what people expected from Santa Claus. He wasn’t fat. He didn’t have white hair. He’d shaven before the party the other night. He wasn’t even wearing any hints of red today. He looked like a normal man in his late twenties, despite his real age.
“Hello, Dear,” I called out, not able to resist the play on words.
Nicholas gave the signal for the deer to land before turning to us with a smile. “Well, if it isn’t my two favorite girls.”
Fidela barreled over to him and he scooped her up into her arms. “Daddy!”
“Hey there, Butterfly. What have you been up to?”
Fidela told him all about her morning, which ranged from making crayon drawings of Santa in her treehouse to pretending she was Santa. My husband and I shared a look. It was definitely time to tell her. We never meant to keep it a secret, we just never sat down and talked to her about it.
“Butterfly, your mommy and I need to tell you something about Santa Claus.”
Her head tilted as she studied him.
She remained silent for a little before she shook her head. “No, you’re not. Santa is fat.”
I don’t think Fidela heard him, but he definitely mumbled under his breath about how much he hated that particular aspect of his description. He continued in a cheerier tone. “I am, and I can prove it.”
Fidela wore a look of intense disbelief that only a child could manage as he carried her to the far side of the stable where his sled rested. The sled was the one thing that people tended to get right about Nicholas’s alter ego. It was deep mahogany in color with gold trim. He’d had it for centuries, and took great pride in keeping it well cared for.
Nicholas set Fidela in the sleigh and then climbed in after her. “See, I have a sleigh, and flying reindeer, and I always work on Christmas Eve. I’m Santa.”
Fidela’s dark brows furrowed as she looked at him, still clearly not buying it.
“It’s true sweetie. Daddy is Santa,” I said, trying to help. “Put on the hat.”
“Right!” he reached back over the bench seat into his bag of tricks and pulled out his red hat. He placed the garment on his head with excitement, and it dangled the white ball of fluff in his face.
“Do you believe us?” Nicholas asked.
“Nope.” Her expectant gaze quickly shifted to me. “Can we have lunch now?”
“Okay, what about my bag?” Pulled the nearly empty bag onto the seat. “You liked Claire’s stuffed fox last night, right?”
Fidela nodded excitedly.
“Well, how about this?” Nicholas reached into his bag and pulled out an identical fox to the one Claire had. Our daughter squealed in excitement as he handed over the plush toy. Fidela hugged it to her chest and pet its head before looking up at her father. She jumped when she saw him, and nearly dropped her new toy as she blinked rapidly.
In that instant, I knew. She’d managed to activate the spell and see him as the rest of the world saw.
“Daddy?” She whispered.
“Yes, Butterfly?” Nicholas replied, tilting his head with a goofy grin.
She blinked again and her smile grew. “You are Santa!” she lunged forward and wrapped her arms around him.
Nicholas chuckled as he hugged her back. “I am.”
She pulled away suddenly, excitement dancing in her rainbow eyes as she looked between the two of us. “Can I be Santa when I’m older?”
My husband and I met each other’s gaze and I could see the pride in his eyes. He wanted her to be a part of this as much as she wanted it. I nodded as I spoke. “Of course you can.”
She squealed in delight again before jumping out of the sleigh and bounding over to the reindeer, who watched her without worry. They were very used to her excitement and energy by now.
“Cupid!” She exclaimed. “I’m going to be Santa when I’m older!”
We watched our little girl with wide smiles.
“Good to see she’s so excited about the family business,” Nicholas said, before reaching into his sack and pulling out a yardstick with a smirk. “I think we’re going to be needing this for a new outfit, Mrs. Claus.”
I took the measuring stick from him, already planning out a new outfit. Green seemed like a good color for her. “That seems likely.”
He climbed out of the sleigh and put an arm around my waist. “Just wait until we tell her who you are.”
“I don’t think she’s ready for that just yet.”