Santa Baby by Mary Collins
December 23, 2014 § 4 Comments
Your fifth and final baby was, you told us, brought to you by Santa—or Father Christmas as we called him, growing up in England.
Ho, ho, ho! And, Merry Christmas! cried the man in red as he strode toward your bed, a swaddled baby nestling in his sack. That Father Christmas was scrawny. Almost too young for a beard of his own, he’d fashioned a false one from surgical swabs.
He set his bundle on your bed, reached in for the baby, and laid it in the manger of your arms. You have thirty minutes, he said, Then I’ll have to take him back. Overhead, fluorescents hummed.
The infant was no bigger than a poor-man’s ham. Looking—for the first time—into the wrinkled, three-day-old face, you coughed a phlegmy welcome.
The baby wasn’t due till February, but a thrombosis, raging like the wrath of Herod toward your pneumonic lungs, prompted his premature arrival into the world and, very nearly, your early departure from it.
Our father was elsewhere, already practicing for his flight from the plague of babies. We would come to remember him only through your fact-fabulous stories of him. Your Father Christmas was the doctor assigned to the morning shift.
Or so the story goes.
Over the years, you’d pondered these things in your heart. Your nativity tale rivaled Bethlehem’s, for all that it lacked in livestock, precious gifts and the watchful husband. It was surely a Christmas myth you’d mulled into a fact-spiced fable.
Our father never reappeared, but, fifty years on, the pneumonia did. It’s too late now to ask you what was myth and what was real. But on this, my first Christmas without you, I shall think of you: long-ago, newly alone, a Santa baby sleeping in the manger of your arms.
Mary Collins recently received Solstice Literary Magazine’s 2014 Award for Creative Nonfiction, and was a finalist for the 2014 Writers@Work nonfiction prize. Her work has twice garnered scholarships to the Norman Mailer Writers Colony, and a 2013 Brevity blog prize. She comes from England and lives on Cape Cod with her husband and son.