“What’s wrong?” Julian asked his little brother. Kevin had been standing in front of the curtains for nearly an hour, simply staring at the red fabric.
“I’m afraid there won’t be any snow,” Kevin said.
Julian pulled open the curtains, letting the sun in. The view of the backyard showed trees, shrubs, the little garden shed, but no snow. Kevin’s lower lip trembled. In his seven years he had never seen a Christmas that wasn’t white.
“Mom and dad have been over this with us, Kev,” Julian said. “It’s a new place, and a miracle that we can live here. We have Christmas, just not a white one.”
“It doesn’t feel like Christmas. Dad is not even here.”
“He will be.”
Dad had promised to be home by Christmas Eve. He hadn’t made it. Mom had tried very hard to make the night as homely as possible, but Kevin couldn’t be dragged away from the window, staring at the sky, looking for signs of his father. He had finally gone to bed without saying a word.
Julian put an arm around his brother. “Come on, let’s go downstairs.”
Breakfast was waiting for them. Warm waffles with syrup and cherries, toast with butter and two large glasses of chocolate milk. A little note leaned against one of them.
“Interstellar mail,” mom said smiling, as she handed Julian the note. It was from dad. He had been delayed by an engine malfunction, but would be home in the course of the morning. “With presents,” mom added.
“Santa Claus didn’t come?” Kevin exclaimed, running into the living room. The space underneath the Christmas tree was empty, and the boy was in tears. Mom hugged him.
“Santa doesn’t have a space ship, Kev,” she said. “He gave the presents to your father. You will get them.”
It didn’t help. “This is not Christmas,” Kevin cried. “Dad is not here, there are no presents under the tree and it didn’t snow.”
Mom held him tighter. “I know it’s hard, but this is our life now. Some things are different. We just have to get used to them, that’s all.”
“Mom?” Julian said, walking over to the window. “Look outside.”
She did, and her eyes widened before urging Kevin to do the same. He cried out in disbelief and flew through the door.
“Snow!” he cried. “It’s snowing!” It was. Large flakes came down, quickly forming a layer thick enough to make a first snowball that hit Julian square in the face. Christmas had come, and with it came the laughter of a child who felt like home once more.
It snowed for an hour, enough for the colony’s children to build snowmen, forts and get the first snowball battle of the season going. At the end of it came the sweetest surprise of all, in the shape of countless gifts with little parachutes attached, drifting down into upreached hands. A few kids thought they saw a space ship disappear once more in the clouds.
At the end of the morning dad snuck into the house and took his wife into his arms, kissing her, looking at his boys playing in the snow, a satisfied smile on his face.
“Where’d you get the snow?” mom asked.
“Pluto,” dad answered. “Sorry for missing last night.”
“Looks like it was worth it.”
Outside, Kevin told anyone who would listen how he hadn’t thought Santa was still coming.
“And mom was wrong,” he said. “Santa does have a space ship!”
Illustration by: Lars de Ruyter