Her young daughter longed for Saint Nicholas to bring her a fox. Her prayers were answered in an unexpected way on Christmas morning.
- Posted on Oct 26, 2020
Lights from the Christmas tree reflected off Aurora’s blonde hair, bowed over a smudged piece of notebook paper. Composing any letter was a difficult task for a little girl just learning to write, and this one was very important.
Aurora paused from her work, frowned at her paper and turned to me. “How do you spell Nicholas, Mama?”
“That’s a hard one. Let’s do it together.”
I knelt on the floor beside her and remembered my own first letter to Saint Nicholas on the eve of his special day, December 6. My parents were both German immigrants, and they’d brought the Saint Nicholas Day tradition with them to America. Now I told the story to Aurora while we were living in Alaska. How Nicholas of Myra was a fourth-century bishop known for his great generosity. After his death on December 6, 343, he became Saint Nicholas—Sinterklaas in Dutch-speaking countries—the patron saint of children.
“Every year on December 6, his feast day, it was said that Saint Nicholas would arrive in town riding a horse,” I’d explained to Aurora at bedtime all week. “He wore his red bishop’s robes. Children would leave their shoes or stockings out on their windowsills or hearths, hoping he would fill them with sweets or little presents. The children also always wrote him a letter and left a carrot for his horse.” I’d grown up writing my own letter every December 5. Now it was Aurora’s turn.
“I finished!” she announced, proudly holding up her letter. “I told Saint Nicholas all the presents I want him to bring me tomorrow.”
“The small gifts will come in your shoe tomorrow,” I reminded her. “The others will come from Santa on Christmas morning.” I scanned Aurora’s carefully printed list. No big surprises there, until I got to the last line where, right above her signature, she’d written A FOX in capital letters.
A fox? That was out of left field. I’d never heard Aurora mention an interest in foxes. I didn’t even know she could spell the word. But there it was in capital letters. I looked into Aurora’s eyes shining with excitement. She had no doubt she’d be getting a fox for Christmas, whether it fit in a shoe or not.
“Not getting everything you ask Santa for is part of childhood,” my husband, Jim, said when I told him about the letter.
“I know,” I said. “But it’s not about the gifts. Aurora’s faith is so strong; she’s so trusting. But how do I ask God to answer this prayer? I mean, a fox?”
“I could try to catch one,” Jim said with a grin, gazing out the window at the snowy landscape. “I’m a pretty good tracker, you know.”
“Very funny,” I said. “I’ve got to run into town this evening. I’ll find a little something foxy to tuck into her shoe.”
But after an hour of searching at the Fred Meyer store, which had everything, I came up empty-handed. No stuffed foxes. No fox figurines. Not even a shirt or pair of socks with foxes on them. Jim really might have had more luck looking for tracks in the wild.
“No luck?” Jim said when I came home. I shook my head. We put Aurora to bed and filled the shoe that she’d laid on a downstairs windowsill next to her letter. Jim took a big bite out of the carrot. We’d make the best of our Saint Nicholas tradition.
It was still dark when I woke up the next morning, even though it was after seven. I stayed curled happily under the covers until…“Mama! Mama! Come see!”
I slid my feet into my slippers and went downstairs. “Happy Saint Nicholas Day, Aurora!” I said, peeking over at the shoe on the windowsill. I’d expected it to be emptied out, Aurora’s goodies already scattered on the table. But she hadn’t touched it.
“Come see!” Aurora repeated, tugging me by the hand. The thermometer by the front door read 27 degrees, but there was no time to grab a coat before she pulled me through the door.
Jim was crouched just outside, examining something on our deck. A light dusting of snow had fallen overnight, and in the whiteness was a perfect set of tiny prints. They crossed the deck and came right up to our front door, as if something had stood there, waiting to be invited in. “Is that…?” I said. “Are those really…?”
“Fox tracks,” Jim confirmed.
Aurora beamed at the tracks, her faith as strong as ever. And mine got a fine-tuning with our Christmas fox sent from above.
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