TW: death of a relative (mentioned)
Miracles are always made and killed by adults.
They make you believe that Santa is the one who spends an entire day at the mall to get you a remote control helicopter, that the Tooth Fairy is willing to pay for your teeth (creepy) and that Easter is somehow about bunnies. Rudolf is different, but it doesn’t matter as long as he’s helpful, and Frosty the Snowman will always come back. Nothing to worry about, kiddo.
First, they tell you Santa isn’t real; then goes the Easter Bunny and as you get older you think that maybe making owls deliver mail is a form of animal abuse. Adults create fantasies for kids and take them away, one by one, and then kids grow up to be these same stern adults: grave pessimists and grim sceptics.
And then it gets heavier: you stop getting presents for your birthday because there’s nothing you can possibly want as a thirty-something-year-old adult with a job, then you stop coming for Christmas because “you’ve been caught up in so much work lately that you don’t think you can make it”.
And the worst part is: you learn how to live with that.
I don’t know if I ever did, though.
Sure, I moved on from Santa a long time ago, but every time Christmas comes I just wish I hadn't. I feel like sometimes adults need miracles even more than their kids do, a little reminder that they don’t actually know everything about everything, that there’s something out there that they can’t explain for once; the unknown and the unseen that can’t be given an explanation based on a human lifetime of experience.
I always dreaded becoming this grown up: cynical, incredulous, scoffing at every one of my children’s even tiniest bursts of imagination. And I think I almost did. I just stopped believing, as one does upon entering a certain stage of one’s life: in miracles, in fairy tales, in adventures and heroics, in slaying monsters and spreading kindness. This is what is expected, after all. I would’ve given it up completely, I think, if not for the day I received what I believe was the greatest gift of my life.
I live alone in an apartment complex. The place is nice. Expensive, but I try not to dwell on it. My job pays well. I write columns for a magazine. Not exactly what I dreamt of, but it’s writing nonetheless. No partner, not even a dog. It gets lonely sometimes, but it’s honestly nothing. I’m not trying to make you feel sympathetic, really. I’m just not wired for that kind of stuff, I guess.
It was November 29th. I was getting ready for work, jumped out of the shower, and heard a doorbell ring. Funny, considering that I was pretty sure I didn't have a doorbell. At least, not the one you think of, I’m sure. I have this intercom sort of thing, that you have to buzz when you enter the building. What I heard sounded like little bells tolling, not the ding-dong sound the intercom usually makes. In fact, the intercom was completely silent. I thought that’s just because I didn’t have my morning coffee yet, my brain didn't fully wake up. Later when I thought about it, it creeped me out, not gonna lie. This is the way you react to “miracles” as an adult, I suppose. They make you feel seen in a bad way, unsafe, weirded out, because these are just stories, something your parents made up for you to feel protected, significant, special.
I opened the door and saw a package lying on the floor and no one to see around. If you didn’t get it, I don’t receive packages. Or presents. Or anything of the sort. I rarely even order online, and my mom and sister just call me occasionally, but that’s about it. That’s just how our family is - we’re not very engaged in each other’s lives.
I picked up the package, looked around the hall one more time to make sure, and brought it inside the apartment. It crossed my mind that maybe it was a mistake, maybe the package wasn’t for me, but it had no note, no tag, and, for some reason, it felt… familiar. There was nothing ‘Christmas’ about it either. The wrapper was plain brown like paper for baking, or something like it, and the ribbon was just a regular thin rope. My mother would always wrap our presents like this. Maybe that’s why it felt so comforting, homelike.
The package was two inches thick and around twelve inches long. I carefully took the wrapping away, with the patience of a stern adult with a serious job and grim pessimism, something I definitely couldn’t master as a kid.
It was a book: a thick foliant with a darker brown cover than the paper it was wrapped in, smooth and warm to the touch. I caressed my fingers over the cover that said “The Tales of The Fool and The Forgotten Dreams”. My heart stopped for a split second as I remembered that a book just like this belonged to my late grandfather: he used to read it to me before sleep, over and over again, every night. I couldn’t recall the plot. I imagined it was something about doing hero stuff, though that doesn’t really fit the title, does it?
It had no author, as far as I knew. Not just on the cover, but anywhere. A couple of years ago I tried looking the book up on the Internet (feeling sentimental, I suppose), but couldn’t find anything. My grandad used to tell me that it was a part of his personal library and that his mother would read it to him, and he to my dad.
What surprised me was that, despite being well-kept, the book definitely wasn’t new. Its edges were bartered a bit, maybe from excessive reading, and the pages were yellow-ish. And then it hit me.
I opened the book immediately, as all the puzzles started fitting the right places. I went to the very end of the book and saw that on the last page, the blank one like some old books have, words were written in black ink: “Where there is great love there are always miracles”. A quote by Willa Cather.
The book fell from my hands, as I realised I was holding that same book my grandfather would read me. The exact same copy, the only one as far as I was concerned. The quote was handwritten by my grandad, I even remember him doing it. We were in his study. He just finished reading the book to me again for the billionth time, he took it from my hands, sat behind his working table and started slowly writing something in the back. He said something to me that day, but I’m not sure I remember what exactly. Something about dreams...
I didn't go to work that day. Called sick. I spent the rest of the day just… reading the book. I never told anyone in the family about it. I'm not sure why. Maybe I was afraid that my mom and sister will start worrying about my health and sanity and telling me to finally start dating someone, or maybe I just didn't want them to tell me that they were behind sending me the book, that they found it somewhere in our childhood home, couldn't wait, and decided to send it to me as an early Christmas present. Maybe I wanted it to be a miracle, a reminder of what it used to feel like when I was a child.
That Christmas I went to my mother’s house after three years of ditching my family over non-existing work. Neither her nor my sister mentioned the book. My niece was very happy to see me. Or maybe not me, but a remote control helicopter that I bought her for Christmas.
I came back home after spending the whole weekend with mom. The book was, surprisingly, still where I left it, on the coffee table near my living room couch. I was thinking on my way home that maybe it will miraculously disappear, or that maybe I caught a severe case of flu and the package didn’t even arrive in the first place.
I also asked the building manager about any recent special deliveries. She said that no door-to-door deliveries were registered the week I received the package. I still don’t know how to feel about this whole Christmas miracle thing. I’m not worried though, so you shouldn't worry about it either.
I’m thinking about writing a book - something that I always contemplated but never had the courage to do. Maybe it will be something about the whimsical early Christmas present granted to The Fool. Well, It will certainly be written by one.
Note to self: you should definitely get a dog.