• megna paula

Staying with Santa: a Christmas Story

I love New York City. Christmas with my family. Santa’s presents under the tree. The little luxuries of home life.

I left all of it for a week upstate with Santa himself.

It was difficult and it was easy. Walking away from 32 years of holiday traditions, taking the train for the first time since the pandemic, leaving the island of Manhattan… all of that was jarring, mind expanding, readying me for the quiet thrill: seeing mountains, a stretch of sky unhindered by Brooklyn(!), getting picked up at the station by my very own Santa Claus.

He drives a little Beamer now, my friends, in electric blue. A bit of an upgrade from Rudolf et al., Santa’s new sleigh is so small that my guitar barely fit in in the place where a back seat should have been, but wasn’t— there were, instead, small towers of beautiful batteries. Santa, my white-haired German airbnb host, has had time on his hands. He replaced the native engine, made the BMW electric, silent, and able to stop at red lights without pressing a foot to any pedals. He told me that he is a link between the universe and humanity. I looked at him and said, me, too.

I booked a suite in his house for a week. The sign on my entrance said, ‘Welcome to Das Queendom, Megna’. (Why, thank you.) We walked through his house briefly, where he apologized for the mess— book stacks of Jung and Freud on the kitchen table, his handwritten notes amidst breadcrumbs. It was like recognizing my own life in someone else’s hands.

Santa’s hands are magical. Immediately responsive to every text, he provided anything I asked for, instantaneously. I would open the door from my Queendom kitchen (table of book stacks, handwritten notes, crumbs of dark chocolate) and find exactly what I wanted: Alkaline water. An umbrella. Home made coconut milk caramelized pudding still hot from Santa’s wood burning stove.

Yes, really.

On Christmas day, I didn’t ask for anything, and I didn’t unwrap anything.

I did my yoga practice to the soundtrack of Hudson Valley’s favorite Christmas music, streaming through the antique radio mounted next to one of three clocks in my suite, none of which told the “correct” time. I made Santa a ceremonial cacao in the morning, fresh pressed carrot-ginger-juice for him in the afternoon (he needs good energy for Chimney traveling, you know). I went for a walk, without a map. There were mountains in all directions and I just headed for one, walking as the crow would fly, which required a bit of trespassing through construction sites, etc.

It was my first Christmas without any gifts that could be wrapped in paper:

The sound of a woodpecker.

The pulling of dried burrs from my expensive city-girl winter coat, not designed to wade through hip high brambles.

A sprout salad I made then ate while my parents took a screenshot my FaceTime call.

It was perfect. I felt spoiled by time, by space, by Santa. I don’t think I slept more than three hours a night all week, so thrilled was I to have the space-time to write and paint and watch, from bed, the way a forest of trees dance through storm winds just before dawn.

He wept when he dropped me at the station.

It was a short drive; he made a face when I put on my seatbelt. “I’m a rebel,” he said: no seatbelt for him. He talked to me as he drove. The streets were empty, the car was silent and slowed itself for a red light, allowing Santa to weave his way through ideas about learning and love and the human spirit. I listened. I watched the sun setting gold rings around our mountains, the steel colored clouds straight like lines along a cosmic notebook.

Santa walked me onto the station platform, bopped me on the nose in his affectionate way, and pointed to the sun setting. “That is west,” he said. He turned to point: “Your train will go that way, south. First, you will see a light, there, in the north.” I nodded. Yes. That’s exactly why I went upstate: to get my bearings.

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©2020 by Megna Paula