…Santa finally came.

We have kids. Kids want to believe in Santa. But if Santa brings our kids a bunch of presents and doesn’t bring as many to their classmates, or vice-versa, then he’s a dickhead. So how do we play this game and keep him a good guy?

We decide to tell the kids that the presents under the tree are from us, and that Santa will bring them one small(ish) gift they can specifically ask for. So we take the girls to a mall Santa early in December each year and listen in on what they want, then put that in their stockings. Boom: Egalitarian Santa.

Except Covid hits, so we can’t see Santa in 2020. No problem. We have them write letters. The kids ask for cupcakes and candy canes – simple. Easy. We can get Santa supplies at any 7-11. Santa delivers in 2020.

2021 comes around. Kids are getting their second vaccines on December 1. So instead of writing to Santa, we figure, let’s go in person. They’ll love the change of pace. But we push our luck a little and go see Santa on the 19th, since that’s the earliest weekend they’ll be fully vaxxed.

Our eldest has been asking for a Venom stuffy for weeks. And our youngest keeps asking for a Spiderman stuffy. Both are doable, even with limited Amazon delivery days left. So we figure this is in the bag. We go see Santa. Our eldest asks for Venom. Check. It’s in the cart already, just got to push the button. Our youngest goes to place her request.

She asks for a Nowhere King stuffy.

What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s a stuffy version of the villain from Centaurworld, a fun but also extremely recent (and therefore relatively merchandise-light) show on Netflix. It doesn’t exist. It might not ever exist. And finding a lookalike is tough, because the Nowhere King was not designed to be a stuffed animal and nothing on the market remotely looks like an acceptable knock-off that we could pretend to be a Nowhere King. He looks like this:

My wife and I have no clue what to do. We scramble. We check to see if anyone has started selling bootleg Nowhere King merchandise. And while some folks have, pickings are slim. The closest we can find are bedsheets. But she didn’t ask for bedsheets.

So we think about making one ourselves. We look for things we might be able to Frankenstein together. There’s this “Long Horse” character I’d never heard of that somehow made it into plush form. I start pricing out the pieces – what if we get that, then sew some felt reindeer horns on, then sew black cloth on the body of the horse thing, and shove stuffing in there? That’s sort of a stuffy, right? Except it’ll cost like $100 for all the supplies and be four feet wide. Not exactly a small gift anymore – especially not next to her sister’s modest Venom.

So we start thinking more abstract. And miraculously, we find a shop on Etsy that sells cute skeleton versions of various animals, including deer. Like this:

Close enough. So we place an order, grateful we live in the Age of the Internet. All things are magic now.

But one problem. This particular seller is in Russia. Between making the stuffy and shipping, it’s going to be 3-5 weeks, minimum. Maybe longer. Plus, given world events, who the hell knows.

So we come up with a cover story. We write our daughter a letter from Santa. In it, he politely says he wanted to bring her a Nowhere King, but it was too scary for the elves to make, so he has to go back to the North Pole and make one on his own after delivering everyone’s presents. But since the reindeer are scared of it, too, he has to drive back, so it might take awhile.

We email the letter to a family friend who graciously volunteered to hand write the letter (thanks again!) and she prints it out on nice cardstock with a candy cane letterhead. Then we drive out to her house to pick up the letter, carefully pack it in a rigid envelope to keep it flat, and bring it back home under lock and key to preserve the integrity of our ever-growing lie.

Christmas morning comes and the girls are mystified by this letter. They’re excited to receive positive confirmation that Santa is indeed listening. So now we just wait.

Except… the kids fear Santa will not be able to deliver on his promise if we put away our Christmas stuff. Wherever would he put the present?

So fast forward to today, and after weeks of waiting, I can finally put away our tree and all the lights. And that is why today is worth it.