Happily Letter After Page 2

Dear Santa,

My name is Birdie Maxwell, and I’m ten and a half years old.

The first line made me smile. At what age did I stop saying and a half? Technically, I was twenty-nine and a half. But I certainly didn’t want to lean any closer to thirty than I had to. These days, I preferred to say late twenties rather than my actual age. Birdie, on the other hand, likely wanted to sound more mature. I did at that age, too. I went back to reading, curious about what the little girl’s wish might be.

Even though I’m writing this letter, I’m not sure I believe in you anymore. I know that sounds dumb, since here I am writing and all. But I have my reasons. You let me down. If there really is a you. Maybe this letter will never even be opened because you don’t exist. I don’t know.

Anyway, four years ago, I wrote you a letter and asked you to make my mom better. She was sick with cancer. But she died on December 23rd. When I cried and said you didn’t exist, Dad told me that Santa was only for kids, and it didn’t work to ask for things for adults. So the next year, I asked for a blue Schwinn with a white basket with pink flowers, a bell that made a quacking sound, and a license plate that had my name. Nothing ever comes with the name Birdie. Not magnets, or coffee mugs, and definitely not bicycle license plates. But you came through. My bike is super awesome, even if Dad says my knuckles are starting to drag on the ground when I ride it.

Then last year I asked for a puppy. I really, really wanted a Great Dane named Marmaduke, one with one blue eye and one brown eye. But you didn’t bring a puppy. Dad tried to tell me that Santa doesn’t bring live gifts. He didn’t know that Suzie Redmond, the most annoying girl in my class, asked for a guinea pig and got one from so-called Santa. Anyway, like I said, I’m not sure if you’re real. Or if any of the rules Dad told me Santa has to follow are even true. But I thought this might be a good way to send my list for this year. Well, it’s not really a list but one big thing that I want . . .

If you’re really Santa, can you please bring my dad and me a special friend? Sort of like a mom, but not a mom because I only have one mom, and she’s gone. But maybe someone who can make Dad laugh more. And if she can do braids, that would be super cool. Dad is really, really bad at them.

Thank you!

Birdie Maxwell

P.S. I know it’s summer. But I thought it might take a while to find the right special friend.

P.P.S. If you’re real, Dad can use some black socks. The ones he wore today had a hole in the big toe.

P.P.P.S. And if you’re really real, can you send me olives? The big black ones that come in a can. We ran out and Dad finally lets me use the can opener. I like to put one on each finger and eat them in front of the TV.

I blinked a few times, taking it all in. It was the sweetest, most selfless letter to ever cross my desk. The fact that the little girl lost her mom at only seven made my heart hurt. I’d been six and a half when my mom died of cancer. And oh my God . . . I’d just thought back to the last time I’d seen my mom and realized how I recalled my age—six . . . and a half.

Oh, Birdie. I totally get you. The years after my mom died, my dad rarely smiled, too. My parents had been high school sweethearts. On Valentine’s Day in ninth grade, he’d given her a diamond Ring Pop while standing in front of the pizza place down the block from their school. Five years later, he brought her back to that exact spot and proposed with a real ring. Their love had been the things little girls dream about. Though inspiring, their romance had a downside. My parents had set such a high bar for what a relationship should be, I refused to settle.

Sighing, I reread the letter. The second time around, I had tears in my eyes when I was done. I wasn’t sure what I could do for Birdie, but I had the sudden urge to call my dad. So I did.Like a typical New Yorker, I didn’t go food shopping so much as visit the tiny grocery store around the corner from my house on my way home every day. Cairo, the guy who worked behind the counter, had moved here from Bahrain with dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian. He treated his customers like we were his test audience.

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