Magic, Post and Pai Natal (Santa Claus)

"Magic doesn't just happen YOU make it happen." A page from my book Shoe Mice. Illustrated by Nervo.

“Magic doesn’t just happen YOU make it happen.” A page from my book Shoe Mice. Illustrated by Nervo.


(Hank, Pai and I are sat at the table for a late dinner. Molly, who ate much earlier, is sat at the table with a doll house and singing to herself while she decorates each room)

Molly: (singing to the tune of jingle bells) Pai Natal, Pai Natal, Natal, Natal, Natal (Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.)

Me: This is the year.

Pai: Yup.

Hank: This is what year?

Me: This is the year Molly will understand and be excited for Christmas.

Pai: The last two years she was too small.

Hank: Oh. (pause)

Me: We have to decide what we are going to do this year about Pai Natal (Santa Claus). Pai (dad) is against Pai Natal (Santa Claus) coming to our house.

Pai: I do not want Pai Natal (Santa Claus) to enter our home. I like to make Christmas. I don’t like anyone else doing it for me.

Me: Which is what led to me writing the letter to Pai Natal (Santa Claus) asking him not to come here when you were born.

Hank: So you already wrote the letter for Molly?

Me: Nope. We needed to have a family meeting about this. Do we want the same for Molly? Are we three happy to make the magic for her?

Pai: You know how I feel.

Hank: Some kids don’t want to believe and magic is only real as long as you believe it is real. Pai Natal (Santa Claus) is magic and if you don’t believe he isn’t real.

Me: What do you believe?

Hank: I believe in magic. I also believe that you make magic.

Me: (nodding, happy that my lectures over the years have stuck)

Hank: I don’t think Pai Natal (Santa Claus) should come to our house. We should write him the letter saying “no, thank you.”

Molly: (singing, focus still on adding more and more teeny-tiny milk bottles to her tiny refrigerator) Please, No Thank You. Please, No Thank You. Please, Please, Please, Please, No Thank You.

Hank: But how do you even get a letter to Pai Natal? Through our fairy door?

Me: I am sure Paige Portensia Xanthro Sprigh is far too busy with teeth collection to handle a message to the North Pole. No, we send a letter through the post office.

Hank: The actual Post Office?

Pai: The Post Office takes letters to Pai Natal (Santa Claus) very seriously.

Hank: Seriously?

Me: Seriously. We will use the beautiful stationary that papa bought me in Vienna and I will write to Pai Natal (Santa Claus) this weekend asking him to officially exclude Molly from his deliveries.

Hank: But how does the Post Office know where to send the letter?

Me: Easy, we use his address.

Hank: Pai Natal (Santa Clause) has an address?

Me: Sure. Pai Natal, Pole Norte. (Santa Clause, North Pole).

Hank: And it gets to him?

Me: The mail is always delivered.

Hank: How?

Me: Well, I don’t know, maybe we should ask our friend, Anna, in Lapland.

Pai: Good idea. She would know.

Hank: In Finland?

Me: Yes. Anna lives in Lapland, the very edge of the human world. The last human outpost before the North Pole. Maybe she will know how the post is handled.

Pai: Maybe.

Hank: It is hard giving Pai Natal (Santa Claus) to other children who really need him. Teachers and neighbors don’t understand. I will help Molly with that part.

Me: OH the stress and drama we endured every year! You were beside yourself with worry that Pai Natal (Santa Claus) would get confused and bring you a present anyway. It was a nightmare for your poor nerves and mine!

Hank: I know now that wouldn’t have happened.

Me: (raised eyebrow)

Pai: You do?

Hank: Yes, you two made the magic. O Espírito de Natal (The spirit of Christmas) is made by parents. 

Pai: In our house.

Hank: In every house.

Me: (nodding, because no one ever called him dumb, not one day, and suddenly, although he was born yesterday, Hank is nine and he gets it)

Pai: (making eye contact with Hank, acknowledging that we know he knows what he knows we know)

Hank: I don’t mind. I like it this way.

Me: And this year the magic will be made by three and it will be extra special.

Hank: I’m excited to make magic for my sister.

Pai: (winking at me) You learned from the best!



conversations with hank


Molly: (toddles into the living room, points to the TV) Happy Days!

Hank: Not now, mana (sister). It is my turn. (driving to Nice, France on the Xbox) You already watched Panda Caricas (singing dancing kids programing) and Ruca (Caillou in the states).

Molly: (belly out, knees locked, bottom lip out, pointing at the TV) HAPPY DAYS!

Hank: Mana (sister), I told you.

Me: (looking up from my book) Besides, you didn’t say, please, Amália.

Molly: (wanting to cry)

Me: (interrupting the tears before they can begin, saying in a sweet voice) Nope! No. No way, little one. (scooping her up in my arms) No way, no how!

Hank: We don’t get what we want when we cry.

Monica (our cousin staying with us for the summer): Amália, would you like some yogurt?

Molly: (from pout to delighted in under a second) SIM! (Yes)

Me: Sim, se faz favor, prima. (yes, if you please, cousin) Yes, please. Please. Yogurt, please.

Hank: And if that is too hard to say, say peas. Peas! We will understand you.

(a little while later, after yogurt)

Monica: Amália. Can you say your name? Say Amália.

Molly: No! (folding her arms and turning away)

Monica: Come on, Amália. You only say your name to you mãe (mom). Say Amália.

Molly: (full throttle sass) No! PEAS. (pause for dramatic affect) PEEEEEEEES.

Monica: (catching on) Oh, I am sorry. How rude of me. Amália, can you please say your name.

Molly: (thinking)

Monica: I would love to hear you say it, please.

Molly: (milking her new found power for all it’s worth)

Monica: Please?

Molly: (side eye) Ah-Molleee-Ah.

Monica: (delighted) Oh and where is Amália?

Molly: (proud, hugging herself) Aqui (right here).

Monica: Thank you, Amália.

Molly: (arms wrapped around her prima’s neck giving her a big hug) De-na-da (you’re welcome).

Hank: (whispers to me, driving through the Amafi Coast) Did you hear, mama?

Me: (book on my chest having witnessed the whole wonderful conversation, whispering back) Yes, I did.

Hank: (taking a hard left, whispers) She’s growing up.

Me: (whispering back) She sure is.


Best Day Ever

Dragon Food

Dragon Food


Me: Tchau (bye), Obrigada (thank you)!

Molly: (waving) Adeus (good bye).

Hank: Bye, bye, Maria!

Maria (Hank’s friend): Bye! Come Back. Okay?

Hank: Okay!

Pai: (waving as he pulls the car out of the steep drive and into the Eucalyptus Grove)

Me: Uftah! Careful of the Guardians of the Gate! (gesturing concern for two old, worn out, tiny mutts who are making it clear to us that this is their home and they are happy to see our backside)

Hank: This was my best day ever. First Gabe and Liz and Rob and Sam and now swimming in a forest with Maria and Sarah! And there was chocolate cake!

Me: (sigh) Ferias (vacation) is the best time of year.  I am house drunk, you guys. I am shaking that house was so incredible.

Alfredo: Make your millions, Joy, and I will find our forever house and it will be magical. (winking at me, not able to take his hand off the wheel on the woodland road) You will make it magical.

Hank: It was a real life mill, wasn’t it?

Pai: It was and Maria’s grandfather was born there. He had an architect renovate it.

Hank: He said that they delivered the farinha (flour) by burro (donkey).

Pai: How else do you get off this hill, especially in the wet winter?

Me: (weepy) When I was a little girl I dreamed of a house like that. A magical forest home with koi fish and water falls and a creek because fairies require water because the sound of the water masks their songs from human ears and because collecting due is a tedious job. I dreamed of a house just like that. I knew it existed. I just knew it and I was so excited to see everything I didn’t take a single photo. It is like it wasn’t real. They even had the swing wide enough for two!  It is like that house sprung from my imagination.

Hank: It was real, mama.

Pai: I think we may get invited back.

Hank: I hope so.

Pai: (taking a right at the church and driving up to the cemetery and not towards home.)

Me: Um…

Pai: (stopping the car under a patch of eucalyptus trees, turning to me) There is a shopping bag in the trunk.

Me: (puzzled)

Pai: You two always need Dragon Food don’t you? Aren’t eucalyptus seeds on the list?

Hank: Yes! (unbuckling Molly from her carseat)

Pai: Right, come on then. (leaving the car)

Me: (weepy, declaring for all to hear) I knew you were my person the minute I met you, Doctor Pereira, but it is moments like these that validate my life choices.

Pai: (throwing an arm around my shoulder, lovingly) Dry your eyes, pink lady (an old treasured nickname because I used to have a bright pick winter jacket when we were first dating). You can’t find the best seeds with tears in your eyes.

Hank: Come on, mana (sister). We are collecting Dragon Food. You come with me. Mama and Papa are having a little date.

Molly: (toddling off) Yah!

Me: (a weepy seed collecting mess of utter bliss)