I first saw the Lego Christmas Village on November fourth. I remember the exact day because it was Ellis’s eighth birthday party at the Zoo and Mom took me to Anglo-Dutch to buy him a present. The invitation is still pinned up on our bulletin board above the toaster even though the party already happened.

Anglo-Dutch is a really good toy store. They have a whole Lego section in the middle. There are also giant train tracks set up in the back where you can try out the Thomas trains. I used to go back there to play but not anymore because it’s mostly for the little kids. They also sell pool chemicals and other things like floaties, but I don’t go in that section either, because we don’t have a pool.

The set I’m talking about was at the end of the Lego aisle. One of the store workers built the whole thing so you could really see what it looks like. It’s not just one building, it’s a Christmas village with people and horses and everything. The best part is that one of the houses is a bakery and there are little plastic muffins and loaves of bread that you can put in the shop window. Also, all the houses have Christmas wreaths on them. In the picture on the box there’s fluffy snow on the roofs and the ground, but it doesn’t come with the snow in real life. Mom says that’s called “false advertising.” I told her that if I get the set for Christmas and it snows, I’ll just go get some actual snow from the front yard and put it on the roofs.

The only problem with Christmas this year is that I don’t know if Santa is real. Yesterday at recess at four square Joey said Raise your hand if you believe in Santa Claus. I raised my hand because I do. He laughed and said Santa Claus isn’t real and he smiled a mean smile. I said he wouldn’t know because he does Hanukkah so Santa wouldn’t come to his house anyway. Julia said she thinks Santa is real, but that he only actually comes to kids’ houses who are super good, like if they saved a dog or started a charity or their favorite food was spinach. I told them I know Santa is real because he writes in cursive, and Mom and Dad don’t. Also, last year I asked Santa for a Nerf gun in my letter to him but I didn’t tell Mom and Dad about it. So how can you say Santa isn’t real if I got it anyway?

When I got home that day, I asked Mom about it, after I had my snack. She made me apples with peanut butter, with the skins cut off the way I like. She said Santa is real and that sometimes kids my age like to “stir the pot.” I thought about Joey standing next to a big witch cauldron and mixing soup with a long spoon. I knew he was wrong. Only thing is when Mom said it her voice got all high and squeaky. It sounded the same as when she told me and Francesca that we would really like the brussel sprouts she made for dinner and then we actually did not like them at all. Something was a little fishy but I still was not sure. I decided right then that I was going to solve the mystery this year, all by myself.
On Sundays we have Family Dinner. Mom usually makes meatloaf or cheese pie or pork chops, and we use the cloth napkins and I get to light the candles. After we said grace, I wanted to talk about my Lego set. I started to and then Mom asked me if I could think of a topic that everyone would like to talk about, since I am a big boy and that means I need to think of others. I looked at them and tried really hard to think of one but Francesca was playing with her carrots and Dad was in his work clothes and Mom was tired and had flour on her forehead. Then I announced that we would talk about Christmas. Mom said it was a great idea and we all went around the table and said what we wanted. So I still got to talk about my Lego set anyway. Francesca said she wanted Polypocket dolls. Mom said a new vacuum and a book by someone named George Eliot. Dad said a new suitcase for his travelling and a ladder. I asked Dad how Santa was gonna fit a ladder down the chimney, but he said that Santa doesn’t bring presents for Mom and Dad.

Two weeks before Christmas, Dad took me and Francesca to the Somerset Christmas Tree Stand. I like riding in Dad’s car. He always plays Dire Straits CDs and pats the steering wheel with both hands like a drum set when we’re stopped at a red light. It’s really clean inside, not like Mom’s car, and there are big map books in the pockets of the front seats that I look at sometimes. We barely ever ride in it, except sometimes when we go out to dinner or drive up to Maine. Most of the time, Mom drives us in the minivan. Dad doesn’t let Mom drive his car, but I don’t know why. One time it was in the way of the minivan in the driveway and she got his keys to move it, but then he came running out and took them from her and did it himself. Sometimes when I’m sitting inside the car waiting to go somewhere, they talk about things I think I’m not supposed to hear. One of those times was last week. Mom moves her hands a lot when she’s mad, and I watched the shapes they made from inside the car. They were talking about Dad’s job, I think. After, she closed the car door really loud behind her.

When we got to the Christmas tree stand, Dad had to take a call and told me and Francesca to find a good tree. Francesca ran straight to the giant ones all the way at the back that are probably the size of the big one in New York City that we saw last year. They’re so gigantic, I bet you’d have to live in the biggest mansion in the world to fit it in your living room. I walked through the smaller trees. The branches poked into my jacket and I could smell wood. My favorite kind of Christmas trees are the really fat ones, because you can hang ornaments way in the inside so they’re secret. I saw a tree that looked pretty nice so I called for Francesca to come see. I called her name again and she wasn’t coming, so I yelled it even louder. A lady that worked there walked up behind me and told me to Please stop yelling. Francesca came finally and I showed her the tree. She said it was too small and she liked the really big ones, so I tried to tell her that since our house is a normal size we can’t have one of those. But she’s five and a half so she doesn’t really understand most things.

We got really bored because Dad was taking a long time. I sat down on the curb and Francesca followed me. We played the Categories game for probably almost nine hours and then Dad came up to us. He said Sorry about that and told us to show him the tree. He pulled one finger out of his glove to type on the screen of his phone and then put it back in. I took his hand and pulled him to the row where the fat one was. The leather on his gloves was soft and he was breathing really loud. Once he saw the tree he said it looked great and we could get it. He usually looks at all the trees first and then we decide. I told him this but he said we didn’t have time and this one was just perfect.

On the car ride back home, I looked out the window and I could see the ends of the branches of our tree. I could see them because we tied it to the roof. Well, the tree guys and my Dad did. No one was talking. Then I asked Dad how Santa gets to all the houses in one night. He said because of time zones night happens at different points all over the world, so Santa gets all the time he needs. I asked him how Santa knows which families celebrate Christmas. He said he has a giant book with addresses and he looks them up. I asked him who he was talking to on the phone. He said someone from the office. I could see his face in the mirror, but he didn’t know I was looking.


I only asked Santa for one present this year, because I want it so bad. Anyone in my family can guess that it’s the Lego Christmas Village because I always look at the picture of it on Mom’s computer in the kitchen and leave it on the screen.

This year we are learning to write in cursive in school because I am in second grade. I thought Santa would be really happy if I made it fancy, so I wrote my letter in it. This is what I wrote:

Dear Santa Claus,
My name is Jack Tippan and I am in second grade. Thank you for reading my letter. I only want one thing really badly for Christmas this year, and that is the Deluxe German Christmas Village from Lego. I know that your elves probably can’t make it because there are so many little pieces, but you can get it on the Lego website so don’t worry. I still think you are real and I hope you have a good time on Christmas. We will put some hot chocolate and carrots for your reindeer next to the tree.


Even though I told Santa that I think he is real in the letter, the truth is I still don’t know. On Christmas Eve, Mom and Dad seemed suspicious. We always watch Frosty the Snowman on Christmas Eve, so after breakfast Mom told me to go set it up. I’m really good at technology so I know how to do it. After I put the DVD in the tray and pushed it in, me and Francesca sat on the couch and waited for them to come in. We looked at the menu on the screen so long that the song that plays started over five times in a row. Fran kept yelling Play! I told her we needed to wait for Mom and Dad, but I was getting mad. I stomped upstairs extra loud so they would hear me and turned the corner to their bedroom. They were whispering so I waited outside the door to listen. Mom sounded like she might want to cry but I couldn’t see her face.

“I think we should tell them before they find out on their own, at least Jack. It’s just not fair to keep waiting. He’s old enough now that he’ll understand.”

I didn’t hear Dad say anything back, but I knew what they were talking about. It was a really good clue that I had just found. When I walked in they said they were coming down soon, both at the same time. Dad grabbed his coffee from the nightstand and Mom put on her slippers really fast, and we walked downstairs together.


After the movie, I was still thinking about Santa. I had an idea for another clue I could find but it wasn’t allowed. Mom doesn’t let us go in the attic because she wraps presents there and they are supposed to be a surprise. All the presents that we get from Mom and Dad are in there, I know that. But if Santa isn’t real and he’s really just Mom and Dad, then the Santa presents would be there too. I wanted to know really badly so even though it’s not allowed I waited until Mom was out picking up the apple pies and Dad was in the basement on the treadmill, and then I went up.

The attic is actually a third floor, there’s just not really a big space for a bed or a person. I walked up the steps as quiet as a mouse but they made little creaks anyway. I think Dad couldn’t hear because he was all the way downstairs.

I opened the small door and saw boxes, all wrapped in the same paper: red and green with silver dots. I picked up some of them and looked at the sticky labels. From Grammy, Love Mom, Love Dad, Love Mom and Dad, From Mom and Dad. No Santa labels. No cursive writing. There were a lot of presents so that was good. I think there were more for me than Francesca so that was also good. But I also wanted to solve the mystery and I thought this would be another clue. I thought about what Mom and Dad said before in their room, about telling me the secret.

We went to church and the whole time Mom and Dad were whispering to each other. It made me think about Santa even more. They were arguing, and Mom seemed more mad than Dad. She almost burnt her hair in the candle she was holding while everyone sang Silent Night. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but I guess maybe it was about presents or who was better at doing the cursive writing. After we got home and ready for bed, we put the snacks out next to the fireplace and said goodnight. I lay in my bed and looked up at the plastic planets on my ceiling. I heard whispering again after a while. It was coming from Mom and Dad’s room so I walked super quiet down the hall and waited outside. The space between the door and the wall is small but I can fit behind it. This time, they were both talking, really loud.

“I just don’t see why you think we should tell them tomorrow. It’s Christmas, babe, knowing about the split’s only gonna make them more upset.”

“Don’t call me babe, David, not now. Just please don’t. And you know what, don’t act like this isn’t your fault, after you take a mysterious hour-long phone call from you-know-who, and Jack comes home asking me about it. He’s been asking questions all week and I can’t lie anymore.”

I wanted to leave right then but I heard Dad’s footsteps coming near the door. I curled smaller in my corner. He pulled the door closed so their voices were quieter. I could still hear.

“Jesus, you can say her name, Karen, she’s a colleague. How many times do we have to have this conversation before you stop overreacting?”

“It’s not about that, David, and you know it, so don’t make this about me. Do you realize how this is gonna affect the kids—I mean, has it even crossed your mind? I’m trying to make the right choice, I don’t want to hide this anymore.”

“Whatever. You know what, whatever. I…all I know is we need to build this fucking set before morning and I’m not doing it alone. I’m taking the dog for a walk and then we can do it—”

I ran back to my room, down the hallway, past the photos in the white frames. I sat on the edge of my bed and I looked out the window. I didn’t want to cry but I couldn’t help it and the tears started to come. It had started snowing and I could tell because the flakes showed up under the streetlamp. I heard Dad’s footsteps coming toward my room. I pretended to be sleeping and he called Cocoa from the rug at the end of my bed.

An hour later, I heard Mom and Dad’s steps down the stairs. I tried to sleep but I felt sick inside my stomach so I watched the snow. There was some on the ground but I don’t know how much because it was so dark out. The last time it snowed was last year in February, and we got a whole week of snow days. The day I remember is when me and Fran were sitting in the front yard, on the side where the little forest is, next to the Lewis’s house. Snow was all over the place and I buried Fran’s legs so she looked like a mermaid. I remember Mom and Dad running across the lawn, and their boots getting caught in the snow every time they stepped, so they looked like the football players in the slow-motion replay on TV. When they finally got to us, I could see that Mom was carrying my soup thermos and Dad was carrying Fran’s. They bent under the branches and opened the tops, and sweet warm steam puffed into my face. Hot cocoa, in the snow, and we sat there for a long time. Dad had his arm around Mom, and since they both had black puffy coats on I couldn’t see where one of them ended and the other one started. A drop of my cocoa dripped on the snow so I just flipped over the chunk and it was clean and white again, no problem. Mom said Time to go in after a while. No one wanted to.

I heard lots of noises downstairs so I got up again. The mystery wasn’t fun anymore but I wanted to go anyway. I tiptoed down the first few stairs and sat where I could see the kitchen table. I saw Dad, staring at the Lego instructions like one of his road maps, Mom trying to fit tiny pieces together with her big hands. There were some houses that were already built. The box was in between them, standing up, with the big picture of the village that I remembered. They didn’t talk. I sat on the stairs and watched them for a long time.


On Christmas morning there was snow on the ground. Mom said that it’s a White Christmas. Me and Fran opened our presents until there were none left. I hadn’t gotten my Lego village, but I knew. But knowing didn’t feel the way I thought it would. Dad pointed to a small box on the table. It said my name on it in teeny cursive writing, and I opened it up. There was a tiny little note that said Go to the Playroom to find a Special Present, From Santa. I walked downstairs and my village was there. I sat down next to it so I could see. The houses were set up just like the picture, with wreaths and people outside and horses and carriages. And on top of the roofs, melting and dripping onto the carpet, was real-life snow.





Elizabeth Vogt is a sophomore studying Creative Writing and Radio/TV/Film. She is from Washington, DC.