First [Everything] Without

How I lied but maybe it was for the best

Let me tell you a quick story. First, if you are a child, DO NOT READ THIS. It’s about taxes and what hemaroids are and you don’t want to know.



Okay, no kids? Perfect. So when I was five, I found out that Santa didn’t exist. I found a huge present in my mom’s closet— a horse barn with plastic horses. [lazy present hiding is a family trait and I am sure I will be found out by the same manner]. But, I was the youngest kid and it was kind of ‘a thing’ that everyone still let me believe, so I pretended to. That holiday season, I won a phone call with Santa that would be recorded and played ON TV {!!} during a commercial break for Babes in Toyland.

Pro: I got to be on TV in voice form. I was basically famous.

Cons: I had to talk to a strange man who I knew wasn’t bringing me something and also pretend to believe he was.

Anyway, on the call, I pretended that I wanted that toy I saw in the closet (it was just a meh fit for me, honestly) and I pretended that this rando dude who I’m sure was very nice was Santa because I knew my parents would be sitting there and listening and totally psyched that I believed and that they chose right.

I pretended to believe for two more years. When some of my other classmates finally copped to knowing Santa wasn’t real, it felt like letting out a breath. I didn’t have to be that guy, so I told my parents I didn’t believe either.

It’s been a rough few weeks for me. My dad went into the hospital on December 13th and died on December 18th. Because it wasn’t COVID, my mom was able to hold his hand at the end. We had a ten-person funeral on December 21st, and the planets aligned in the sky for his send-off. Jupiter just saying, “Hey dude, welcome.”

Because of life and 2020 and just whatever, I happened to record a conversation on December 17th with Iowa Public Radio about my debut novel. Despite looking like a rom-com, THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT focuses on family and forgiveness (and bugs, duh). The interviewer, Charity Nebbe, asked how I balanced humor and grief in this book, and I told her that even in our darkest moments, it resonnates with me, at least, when we can find humor.

So, I’ve been laughing and crying with a healthy dose of numb dissociation since he went into the hospital. In some ways, it feels like that first no-Santa Christmas times a zillion, mostly because of the pretense. I had made it to the end of 2020 with a tenuous hope— in the continued safety of my family, in my debut novel, in the coming changes in our country. Now, at the finish line, my mask (the emotional one) is falling. Don’t worry, I’m still wearing the fabric one.

I’m not alone in feeling more alone this Christmas. I’m blessed to have my mom and husband and kids with me, but I am mostly pretending to be here. My kids are all-in on Santa this Christmas, and on joy. Listening to them talk, I’m grateful that I at least pretended to want what my parents bought me all those years ago. That was one more time I got to check off the good daughter box, and we never know how many of those boxes we actually were given.

I’m not alone in having lost someone very close to me in 2020, and if you did, too, know that I’m thinking of you.

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