“S… A… T… A… N…E”

“To Satan.” With a silent-e.

“From Declan Rowe.”

“Would you like another envelope?” I asked. “This one’s addressed to Satan.” Declan was never a regular at Catholic church and he hasn’t gone to CCD, so he doesn’t realize the full impact of this mistake.

“No, it’s good,” he says.

“Are you sure?” I ask. “It says ‘to Satan.’ I don’t think the mailman will bring it to the North Pole. Satan lives somewhere much hotter.”

“Like near Grandma?” he asks.

“No, not Florida… the ‘h’ word,” I say. His eyes light up.

“You mean HELL?” He shouts. Swears are cool. He’s said he wants to be a teen so he can do whatever he wants and swear.

“Don’t swear. Yes. Hell.”

“What does Satan do?” He’s trying to figure out whether his mistake is big enough to warrant fixing. Can Satan bring gifts, too?

“What does Satan…do?” Every child who crawls knows what Satan does. He gets into your mind and makes you sneak cookies, stay up past bedtime or fight with your brother who probably deserved it.

I’m remiss in my parenting again. I feel nearly as bad as the time Declan couldn’t tell a baseball from a football. “Touchdown!” he’d say when he hit the ball. That was the day I knew I had to step up my game. We played sports all summer and I signed him up for soccer in the fall.

I think we need a refresher course on religion. “Satan tempts you to do bad things.”

“So, it’s Satan who makes me watch the YouTube channels you don’t allow?”

“Yes.”

All of a sudden I feel relief. I’m not a bad parent. It’s Satan. The church had it right all along. Satan made me do it. I’m a good parent, but there are outside forces at play.

“I really think you should fix your envelope so it gets to Santa,” I tell him. “And just so you know, Santa doesn’t get everything on the list. He wants to make sure all the boys and girls get something.” I read the list. “And he doesn’t get things that moms and dads don’t like, like Five Nights at Freddy’s games.”

Declan discovered a teen-friendly horror game back when Satan was busy configuring the YouTube parental controls. I took it away, shifting the bad guy label from Satan to mom. Why does Satan always get to be the good guy?

“Satan will get it, then.” He keeps it on the list.

I tell him Satan doesn’t put presents under the tree. He destroys things. Like the Grinch, but more evil.

I picture Jesus lying next to the Grinch, who takes hay from the manger. Or Satan tripping wise men, spilling frankincense all over.

Declan folds his letter into three parts, an art kids don’t master these days–correspondence. He puts the letter inside, licks the envelope and says, “Yuck. This tastes awful! Get me some milk!” It hits me–most kids won’t use envelopes except to send Christmas letters. I am teaching a lost art. I wonder what Santa’s email address is.

I put the letter in my bag. I don’t get around to mailing it.

“MOM!” Declan says the next night, “I need my letter to Santa.”

I confess I haven’t gone to the post office yet. I return his letter to Satan.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s has a game three!” He writes that on his list and gets another envelope.

I am on the phone. He interrupts. “It’s an emergency! How do you spell ‘Santa?'” He writes carefully, checking the spelling twice, the point of his pencil on each letter, speaking it out loud to make sure it’s correct.

This letter will get to the North Pole. I remind him Santa won’t get everything–like Legos that are too hard for moms, messy things, wasteful things, toys that exploit workers, things that blow up, or substances that remind parents of boogers.

“That’s okay, Mom. I know Santa can do it. I said ‘please’ and ‘thank you.'”

Faith. What a beautiful thing.

He puts the letter in my bag. I’ll mail it tomorrow.

 

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