This morning I asked Clara what she wanted for Christmas. She was sitting blurry-eyed on the edge of the bathtub watching me get ready for the day.

“I just ask because I was at the store last night, and they had a coupon for toys, and I said, ‘oh Gideon would love these Paw Patrol figures, and Lydia would go nuts about these princess dolls’ but I couldn’t really think of what you would like.”

She smiled and nodded. “Yeah… Yeah, I don’t really get very excited about those kinds of things anymore.” She said ‘those kinds of things’ in a sort of disgusted way that made me somewhat sad to hear. Then she shook her head. “No. I am more interested in simpler things now, you know?”

I did not know.

“I mean,” she continued, “If I could have just one thing for Christmas I think what I would ask for is…” she pondered the correct words, “I would like one week to spend time with just family. With you not working and mom home with nothing going on. For one whole week, just like that.”

I put down my hairbrush and gave her a hug. “That’s so sweet Clara.”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “Also, I would, of course, want Lydia and Gideon not to be there. They could go somewhere else for the week. Maybe they can go to Grandma’s house or something. I really don’t care actually, just as long as they are gone.”

I smiled down at her kind of painfully. “…so sweet.”

She laughed awkwardly and tilted her head to the side. “Grandma’s house, or Gran’s house. They could stay with friends. You could take care of that part.”

“Right.” I narrowed my eyes. “I’ll talk to Santa about it,” I said flatly.

And then I was suddenly struck by an uncomfortable image. I saw Santa Claus creeping through our house on Christmas morning, delivering packages of Paw Patrol figures and princess dolls and then sneaking upstairs to deliver one last gift in the children’s bedroom. Later he would be seen standing in front of the fireplace where he would press a gloved finger to his lips and wink at Clara as she watched from the top of the stairs. She would wink back and smile. Then he would turn and disappear up the chimney, his velvet bag squirming in angry protest.