The Box in The Closet
by Eric Lee
Everyone must learn this truth at some point. I only wish, at seven, I hadn’t been so inquisitive, then maybe I could have enjoyed the magic a few years longer.
I was sitting on the living room floor watching TV. It was a week before Christmas, and I could see our tree with the lights on it. Everything sparkled and reflected all these different glittery colors; it was beautiful. That’s when I heard Freddy and Bob in the kitchen talking with Mom and Dad about Santa. Their voices were a little muffled, so I crawled closer toward the dining room table to hear better.
I could hear Mom say, “Keep your voices down.” Then Freddy said, “But we know all about Santa.” I leaned in closer underneath the dining room table not wanting to miss a word. Somehow, I knew this must be important information, but I couldn’t let them know I was listening. “We know that it’s you who buys the presents, keeps them hidden somewhere, and puts them out on Christmas Eve. That’s what some kids told us at school.”
My father looked annoyed, “If you two don’t believe in Santa, well then I guess you both will be on his naughty list and won’t get anything for Christmas.”
That’s when Bob started in, “I didn’t hear anything, I only heard what Freddy said.”
“Bob, you said you heard it too.”
That’s when my mom spoke up. “Now just a minute, why don’t you both start from the beginning and tell us what you heard, and we can sort this out.”
I knew what I had to do. I crawled out from under the dining room table and sat thinking for a moment in front of the TV. My brothers were older than me, and sure they could punch me harder than I could punch them, but I’d proven in card games that I was smarter than them both. As I sat all alone in the living room, I was looking right into my parents’ bedroom and could from where I sat, next to the TV, just a little ways away, see their closet door. I needed to check it out. That’s what I would do. I quickly crawled into their bedroom and opened the closet door. There on the floor sat this giant box. A box I’d not seen before. I didn’t look inside; I was too afraid of being caught or maybe afraid of what I might find, I didn’t know at the time. I stepped back, quickly closed the door, and went back out into the living room and stared blankly at the TV. I thought about what Freddy said a few minutes earlier, and then wondered about that big box. I kept what I’d seen a secret. I didn’t tell Freddy or Bob. I didn’t tell anyone.
A week after Christmas, one day when the house was quiet, I snuck back into my parents’ bedroom and opened their closet door. What I saw was a big empty space; the box was gone. In a way I was surprised, but then I wasn’t. I was suddenly sad because I’d learned the truth, the secret which Freddy had talked about two weeks ago, that the magic about Santa wasn’t real. I didn’t know what to do with what I’d learned. There was this large emptiness inside me, and I felt like crying. Why had I looked? What made me do it? I thought I wanted the truth, but then, sometimes the truth hurts. That’s when I started to question what I’d seen. I mean, I didn’t look IN the box, but I knew. I just knew.
After I closed my parent’s closet door, I went back into the living room and sat on the couch, alone. Knowing what I’d just learned hit me like a wave and I realized the impact was more than Santa alone. It was Frosty, and Rudolph, all of it. I sat there and looked at the Christmas tree and wondered why did we put all those ornaments on the tree? Why are there so many other decorations all over the house when none of it was real? Yet, I liked how shiny and bright they looked. Even now that I knew the truth, I still liked all the decorations.
Then I saw how my mom and dad acted together when they sat and looked at the tree all lit up. I saw how they smiled at each other and held hands and it made me wonder if it was something else that was magical that I didn’t yet understand. That maybe it wasn’t Santa alone but something bigger.
Everything about the holidays made everyone in our family happy. We would go up to Grandma’s farmhouse and all our aunts and uncles and cousins would be there, and it was just like at our summer picnics. We all had fun together, laughing and playing games. All my aunts made delicious pies to eat, and my dad and uncles would tell jokes, and stories and we’d all laugh.
I kept the secret I’d learned about Santa to myself. I didn’t even tell Loretta, my favorite cousin. I realized, why would I want to ruin the Christmas magic for her? Or anyone? Yet I knew that there was more to Christmas than just Santa. I just hadn’t figured it out yet.
Eric Lee, a scientist for 40 years, retired from the corporate world and turned to writing in 2021. In addition to crafting poems and short stories, he’s also writing his memoir, An Intentional Journey, and is completing the last book in his trilogy, The Secrets Beneath Nantucket Sound. Eric’s story, The Box in the Closet is his first publication in a literary magazine. He lives and writes between the woods of Andover, Massachusetts, and the mountains of Newry, Maine.