A Miracle Before Christmas

Olga Steblyk / Sputnik Photography
Thando Bhebhe / Lead Infinitum Writer
Thando Bhebhe / Lead Infinitum Writer


The Night Before Christmas 

I don’t know what to feel anymore.
I feel like I’ve felt everything.  
That the feelings are so deep
That they’re so intense  
That I just want them to end 
That I want to stop feeling 

Adam gets the letter from Mark, and they both stare at each other, equally appalled, horrified and in shock. 

Mark’s face is worried and surprised, but for Adam, his worry isn’t of surprise, it’s a worry for what he always knew, what he always feared.  

“I’ll talk with her,” says Adam. 

“I don’t know babe,” replies Mark. 

“I have to.’’ 

“She doesn’t know that we know.” 

“She clearly needs our help; this is a cry for help.” 

“I’m not saying it isn’t, I’m just saying let’s give it time. You don’t know the whole story yet.” 

“That’s why I want to reach out to her, to find out.” 

“That’s the thing, she didn’t come to us. Maybe she’s not yet ready to be reached out to, maybe she just needs some space right now.” 

“She needs help Mark, our help.” 

Mark sighs, his eyes saying everything. Adam reads them and though he doesn’t say anything, he knows Mark is right. He knows because he’s been where his daughter is and when he was there, he wanted to be alone, he wanted his space, he wanted – Adam stops his thoughts, refusing to delve into the past, to drown in the memories. It’s a miracle he escaped, he doesn’t want to go back to then, that’s why he needs to do something, he barely got out, what of Ivy, what of his daughter. 

“How did you even get this?” asks Adam. 

“From Lilly. She says Ivy hasn’t been doing too well at school,” replies Mark. 

“That’s old news.” 

“I guess it’s getting worse, Lilly wants to help but Ivy’s shutting her out.” 

“So how did she get this.’’ 

“They do share a room.” 


“Exactly, that’s why we need to hold our horses babe, because Ivy’s going to start asking those same questions.” 

“We can’t just do nothing though.” 

“You’re right, we will do something.” 

Mark then moves closer to Adam, clutching his hand and bringing him closer. 

“We just have to play it cool. Ivy doesn’t want an intervention right now, she just needs love and support and family,” says Mark. 

“Thank God it’s Christmas,” says Adam, smile slipping. 

“We better make it the best Christmas ever then, huh.” 

“Easier said than done.” 

“We better get working then,” says Mark, leaning in for a kiss. 


Adam and Mark spend the whole day wrapping presents and writing Christmas letters. They dig up the old Christmas pajamas from the attic, washing them and jumping excitedly when they discover they still fit. They make the food, stuffing turkey and baking cakes. Everything must be perfect, it needs to be. 

“We are doing all we can baby,” says Mark. 

“I know, I just want her to have fun, you know,” replies Adam. 

“Yes, my love, and we do that by having fun ourselves, so wipe off that frown, mister, and help me build a snowman.” 

“Are you insane? It’s colder than Antarctica out there.” 

“Then I guess we’re explorers,” says Mark, with a twinkle in his eye. Adam shakes his head with a gleaming smile, knowing he’ll do exactly as Mark asks. The front door suddenly opens, the wind whistling in. 

Lilly and Ivy walk in, Lilly cursing and swearing at the cold while Ivy heads for her room with headphones muting her dads’ hellos. 

“What are you guys up to?” asks Lilly, both Adam and Mark lost in Ivy as she disappears up the stairs. 

“We were going to build a snowman,” replies Mark 

“That sounds fun, I’ll join you guys.” 

“Alright then, little explorer,” says Mark, rubbing Lilly’s head. 

“I can literally ride all the rides at the fair now,” she says, still enjoying her father’s hand rustling through her hair. 

“Ooooh, you’re such a big girl,” replies Mark, his face warm with laughter.  

Adam’s face, however, is sullen, and Mark picks it up. 

“How about you ask Ivy if she wants to join us, huh.” 

“Goodluck with that, she’s literally a wall right now, didn’t even talk to me the whole walk home.” 

“We’ll head out, then you two can join us.” 

“Fingers crossed,” says Lilly, running out with her dad. 

As Mark’s and Lilly’s giggles jeer from outside, Adam stands in the kitchen alone, wondering what to do. He doesn’t know what to say and beyond all, he feels immensely guilty, immensely responsible for Ivy’s pain, terrified, that she’s her father’s daughter, that his sins now haunt her. 

He heads up the stairs, making way for the girls’ room, the door open, neon lights shining faintly, lighting up the dark room. He stares in, a body sitting on the edge of a bed, staring outside, the dark blue sky staring back. The body turns to the door, staring, and Adam finds himself staring at another version of himself. 

“Are you OK dad?” 

Ivy’s question sinks in and Adam snaps out of it, realizing he’d started to tear up. 

“Oh, I’m OK honey, umm… how are you?” says Adam, forcing a smile. 

Ivy looks concerned, almost worried, and maybe, maybe almost – Adam stops the thought. 

She isn’t like him; she can’t be like him. 

“I’m OK, just going to head to sleep.” 

“Long day, huh.” 


There’s silence, and it’s awkward and Adam’s mind goes blank, not knowing what to say, what to do. 

“Ummm… Well, your dad and Lilly were wondering if you want to join them down there, join us, we’re building a snowman.” 

Ivy then lies down, her back staring back at Adam. 

She doesn’t reply. 

“I get it. Well, no worries honey, I hope you have a good nap.” 

Adam then backs away, almost closing the door, but stopping himself, leaving it open. 


As the day breathes its last breath, Adam finds himself in the kitchen, alone again. The snowman Lilly and Mark attempted to build barely stands erect outside, the wind battering it hard, Adam wonders if it’ll still be standing by Christmas morning, he doubts it. 

The expedition sent Lilly and Mark into their blankets, freezing cold with heavy eyes that drowned in sleep. Yet, Adam isn’t so lucky. Restless about Ivy and the looming Christmas, he fixates on its aiming for perfection, desperate for it to cheer Ivy up.  

Desperate for anything to cheer her up. 

He understands Mark’s caution, an intervention won’t fix anything, but that doesn’t matter to Adam. Ivy needs help, she needs comfort and Adam can’t give it to her, he feels powerless. He thinks back to moments ago, when she was lying with her back turned to him, not replying. Maybe that was a message, a cry for him to comfort her, for him to save her. 

But how? He couldn’t even save himself. Adam then starts thinking about Amy; Lilly and Ivy’s mother, his first love. 

She passed when they were still children, thankfully. At least they didn’t have to feel the weight of her departure, at least they had Mark to fill the hole she left, the same hole that now digs in Adam’s heart. He wishes she was still here. Not just for him, but for Ivy. She would know what to do, she always knew what to do. Yet again, Adam finds himself tearing up. 

It was yesterday. 
When you were still here 
When we were still together 
In each other’s eyes 
In each other’s arms 
Holding together 
Crying together 
Through it all 
Except today 
When you’re not here 
When I’m alone 
When I feel alone 


As Adam’s floating in a pool of grief, stomping feet from upstairs break him from the water’s grasp, he swims ashore, waking back to reality. Suddenly panicked, with tears gushing, Adam can’t bear to be seen like this, especially by his daughters, not with Christmas so nigh, the spirits must remain high. So as the feet etch closer, descending the stairs, Adam flicks the lights, the kitchen going dark as he clears away the tears, realizing he’s only made things even more suspicious, yet it’s too late, as mystery lands, the feet coming closer.  

So, Adam hides behind a corner in the darkened kitchen. 

While Adam peers into the dark kitchen, before it lies the living room, dimly lit, a grand chair seating empty next to the fireplace. The mystery reveals herself as it turns out to be Ivy, wandering in her PJs Adam and Mark found. 

She grabs cookies and milk, serving them in plate and glass, then she tiptoes for the grand chair, keeping the servings balanced and placing them on a corner table beside the chair. She then departs, the food staring back at Adam, a memory resurfacing in his mind, the pool flooding, leaking through his eyes. 

We were still so young. 
Our love blooming. 
The roses were budding. 
Yet my storms of grey thundered 
Rain gushing from my eyes. 
Night after night 
I had you to turn to 
Winter came. 
And you were my warmth. 
I still remember our first Christmas. 
Another storm had bellowed. 
And we went to sleep with freezing spirits. 
Yet in the dead of night 
I opened my eyes. 
A Christmas miracle 
I’d heard of him as a child,  
A seasonal myth 
And here he was. 
Laughing a great Ho-ho-ho before my eyes 
His beard shiny and white 
His belly soft as a sudden missing pillow
He slung a green bag from his shoulder.  
Gifting me a prize 
He said I’d been good, because I kept going, because I never gave up. 
He then kissed me on the cheek. 
And I pulled off his beard. 
Revealing you 
I kissed you. 
And we lay together. 
Spirits melting in warmth. 
And merry Christmas 


“Leave me some cookies and milk next time,” said Amy. 

Adam did, and a tradition was born. 

Amy would dawn the beard and pillow each following Christmas, tiny Lilly and Ivy getting a chance to see their mother as Father Christmas. Ivy would prep the milk and cookies with excitement, cackling with her mom who told her Santa’s favorite kind. 

“He doesn’t mind chocolate cookies, but if you were to leave some rainbow sprinkled ones, I have a feeling he’ll be very happy.” 

“And how do you know that, huh?” asked Ivy 

“Let’s just say, a little birdie told me.” 

Adam’s wet blink dries at his hand, he’s surprised Ivy still remembers. The tradition had ceased once Amy passed, becoming locked in memory. He wonders how many Christmases have come and gone, Ivy still waiting for Santa, missing Amy. 

Just like him. 

As the pool overflows, Adam notices a glittering spark in the waters. This could be his chance to do something, to try and cheer Ivy up just like Amy cheered him up those many winters ago.  

This is Ivy reaching out, so Adam chooses to grab hold. 

From the attic, Adam finds Amy’s old Santa suit, the beard and pillow still the same as on that first Christmas. As he runs through the suit, he finds a note, one he’s never seen before. Unfolding it, he then stares at Amy’s scribbling, his heart melting. 

If you find this, it means for whatever reason, I can’t be Santa. So that’s why I wrote this note, because if I know my Adam well enough, you’re probably freaking out, so the first thing we do, is we breathe. OK, breathe in, then breathe out. It takes a lot to dawn the pillow and beard, but all that matters is fun. Have fun my love, if you’re having fun, then we’ll all have fun. That’s really it, take it easy Addy bear and have fun. I’ll always love you, and thank you, thank you for having fun with me, always – Amy. 

P.S. Don’t you dare eat the cookies and milk before handing out the gifts, earn it mister! 

Love you. 😊 

Adam crumbles at the note, surprised he’d never found it. He lets it simmer, breathing in, and breathing out, feeling Amy’s warmth. 

With the suit dawned, beard hanging and pillow stuffed, Adam then tiptoes into the girls’ room, green bag of gifts slung on his shoulder. Lilly lies asleep clutched so deep in slumber that she doesn’t hear a thing. He places her gift next to her bed, granting her a tender kiss on the forehead, her soft breathing warming his soul.  

Adam then heads for Ivy, she lies buried in her blankets, hopefully oblivious to Santa’s return. He places her gift next to her bed, then he adds a little note, the same note Santa gave him during his first Christmas with Amy.  

You’ve been good,  
Because despite it all 
You keep going. 
You never gave up. 
And you remain a gift. 
A gift to us all. 

As Adam rises, the cookie craving rumbling through his stomach, Ivy rises too. 

Before her lies Santa, beard shinning, pillow belly belching. 

Santa then laughs his ho-ho-ho. 

Ivy’s face lighting up, a sparkle in her eye. 

Adam can’t remember the last time he saw her this happy. 

He leans in, kissing her on the forehead, then she clutches onto him, holding him tight in a deep embrace. 

The warmth is enough to melt the snowman outside, Adam grabbing hold too, as they hug. 

“I’ve missed you,” says Ivy. 

“I’ve missed you too, my love. I’ll always be here and I’ll never leave you, never.” 

In that moment, a Christmas miracle shined bright. Adam and Ivy both knew, things would be okay

Today, they were merry


This article was originally published in print Volume 23, Issue 4 on Thursday, Dec. 7.

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