It was snowing.

"Wake up!" my younger sister urged in hushed tones.

I'd been dreaming of cowboys.  Spaceships.  Narrow escapes from dastardly villains.

I heard my sister run gingerly to the window.

"You're missing it," she told me.

I opened my eyes.  Her face and hands were just barely grazing the glass.  She looked back at me, leaving foggy silhouettes in her wake.

It was snowing.

On that Christmas Eve, the snow fell steadily.  Our neighborhood was a crystalline snowglobe.

I slung my feet over the edge of the bed, hugged the post and noiselessly fell to the ground.  I had the top bunk.  It was ideal for summertime ambushes with my squirtgun.

"Do you think the moon is full?" my sister asked.

"The moon is sleeping," I answered.  "She's waiting for Santa Claus."

My sister grinned at me.  That was an acceptable answer.

We watched the snow in silence.  The single precipitation pattern that has no sound.

"Know what Billy Ackerman told me?" my sister asked without looking at me.  Our attention was still taken by the weather.

"What?" I asked.

"He said that Santa doesn't exist."

There was a gravity in her voice that can only be attributed to that of a true believer.

"Billy Ackerman has spiders in his soul," I told my sister.  She turned to look at me.  Fear was writ large across her face.  "It's okay.  They can't get you.  Soul spiders aren't like regular ones.  They crawl in your ear when you're a baby and live there for the rest of your life.  They tell you to do bad things--"

"Like the time you put a frog into Mrs. McRuder's car?"

Mrs. McRuder was our neighbor.  She smelled like creamed spinach.

"No.  Not like that.  I did that because I knew the frog would be happier there.  And because I overheard Mrs. McRuder tell Mom that she was searching for companionship."

"Then what do the spiders tell you to do?" my sister asked anxiously.

"Bad things.  I don't know.  I don't have spiders living in my ears.  Anyway, they also lie," I said.

"Like saying that Santa isn't real?"


She paused then, considering this.  "Yucky old spiders."

I checked the clock.

"We should get back to sleep," I told her.  "Don't want to disturb Santa."

My sister nodded and we both headed for bed.

A thud stopped us.

A dense, hollow thud from above us.

"Santa," my sister whispered.

I pointed to bed, but she was already out the door.  I admired her enthusiasm.

I sneaked after her, slowly creeping, trying not to wake Mom.  My sister was already downstairs, plugging in the tree, making sure the cookies and milk were still intact and in place.

"We can't be here when he comes.  He won't leave us any presents," I insisted.

"I just want to say hello.  Can't I stay?" she pleaded.

I was weighing the pros and cons when I realized it was too late.  A tall black boot touched down below our hearth.  Another followed.  A ball of white and red crouched and condensed until a great mass of a man stood before my sister and me.

He had a white tangle of a beard, rosy cheeks and familiar eyes that anyone could see in any of a number of illustrations.  It was he.

"Santa," my sister sighed.

"Katie," he scolded and hefted his bag over his shoulder.  "You shouldn't be out of bed."

Her eyes filled with tears.  "I didn't mean to..."

"There, there," he said.  "Don't do that."

"Are you really not going to leave any presents, Santa?" she sniveled.

He sighed.  "You go on to bed.  I didn't see a thing."

Her face lit up and her tears dried away.  She smiled widely and ran off to bed.

"Adam," he began, "you shouldn't be up either."

"I tried to get her back to bed," I told him.  "It's not my fault.  She woke me up, all excited about the snow."

"We haven't had a white Christmas in many years," he said.

I smiled.

"No, Dad.  We haven't."