cookies, walnuts, cinnamon sticks

Ben’s Christmas Visitor

The last day of school before Christmas always energized Westwood Elementary School, but particularly the third-graders. Not only did the day feature the customary pageants and parties, but it also heralded the finals of the Third Grade Spelling Challenge. Each class had competed throughout the month in spelling contests, with the top three spellers from each of three classes clashing that special day to determine the best. The winner always received a crystal tree ornament from Santa at the conclusion. Ben and his twin sister, Callie, served as two of the three finalists from Ms. Hepplewhite’s class.

Ben excelled in spelling. The night before the competition, he watched Callie poring over the long list of potential words. He stood before her with his hands at his hips and puffed out his chest. “I don’t know why you’re even bothering, Cal. I haven’t missed a word on a test yet. I’m not even wasting my time looking at the list.”

Callie twisted a braid of her blonde hair, looked aside, then back to Ben, and gushed. “You never know, Ben. This is December. I love everything about Christmas — the shopping, the carols, the food — everything. And Santa Claus. I just love Santa Claus. Getting the prize from him would be wonderful.” She threw her hands into the air.

“C’mon, Cal. This test will be a cinch for me like all the others. You know I’m going to win.” Ben knew Callie had to work hard at spelling. She struggled during their tests in class, yet usually got most words right. She had never topped him, though.

Callie slumped in her chair. The corners of her mouth turned down as her head dropped. “I know you’ll win, Ben.” Callie mumbled. “I just hope to finish second. That would still be pretty good.” 

“Second place may be good enough for you, but not me. I’m a winner.” With that declaration, Ben’s blue eyes gleamed as he headed to the television to watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas!. Before starting the movie, he surveyed the Christmas tree in the corner of the room to find the perfect spot for the ornament he expected to win.


The next day, Ben followed Callie down the steps of their bus at the driveway to their home and watched her race through the fresh snow up the drive to the front door of the house. He trudged with uncharacteristic sullenness in her tracks. Callie exploded through the door, trailing books, papers, and mittens behind her. She screamed loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear. “Mom! Mom! Come see! I won! I won!”

In Callie’s success, Ben had found failure; in her excitement, disappointment. Bitterness and resentment festered. He slammed the door, jingling the bells affixed to the outside. He dropped on the first step to the stairs to the second floor and swept his cap from his red hair. Ben buried his freckled face in it.

Callie danced about the entrance hall and continued to shout. “Oh, Mom. You have to see. It’s so beautiful. And I got it from Santa!”

Ben looked up as their mother arrived from the kitchen. Callie twirled the snowflake ornament before her eyes. “I beat Jimmy Spencer to win. He thought “xylophone” starts with a z, but I knew it was an x.” Mother took Callie’s crystal treasure and twisted it slowly at the end of her extended arm. “It is so beautiful, Callie. Look how it catches the sunlight and sprinkles it about the room.” She bent over and gave Callie a big hug. “I’m so proud of you.”

Kindness characterized Ben — especially toward Callie. Ben loved and protected his sister, usually. But losing to her carried more grief than he could endure. “Humph,” Ben grumbled to himself as he filled with petty thoughts. “I haven’t missed a word in over a year. She doesn’t give me hugs when I pass the tests.” Callie’s excitement and his mother’s reaction honed the pain of his failure.

“How did you do, Ben?” He stared blankly ahead and did not answer his mother.

Callie whispered, but not so softly that Ben did not hear. “Ben was the first one out. He spelled mistletoe, m-i-s-s-l-e-t-o-e.”

“Oh, Ben. I’m so sorry.” Mom moved toward him, handing the ornament to Callie as she did.

Ben erupted. Batting his mother aside, he jumped toward Callie. “Yeah, Cal. Your dumb ornament is sooooo special. Macy’s has hundreds just like it. You’re so stupid. You still believe in Santa Claus.”

Mom reached for him. “That’s enough, Ben. Get your coat off and go to your room.” Ben ignored her.

“Don’t you know he’s not real? Mom and Dad put the presents under the tree every year. But you’re so stupid, you still buy that some fat old guy in a red suit delivers. What a jerk.”

Callie’s eyes rounded. “Momma, is it true?” Sniffles followed and her chin quivered. “Is it true?”

Before their mother could answer, Ben grabbed for the decoration. “Let me see your dumb ornament. It should’ve been mine anyway.” He grasped at the snowflake, but Callie screamed and pulled away just as he did. The crystal sailed out of her hand, fluttered across the room, and shattered against the wall. The agony on Callie’s face told Ben her heart had shattered with it.


Ben hated being grounded the following day for Christmas Eve. He agonized over confinement in his room — no television, no movies, no games, no cookies, nothing. The sentence would end only in time to leave for the children’s Christmas Eve service late in the afternoon.

But he knew he deserved it. All his misery rooted in what he had done to Callie. He had ruined the best day of her life by breaking the snowflake, and had ruined her Christmas by telling her Santa Claus did not exist. Almost immediately after the incident, he tried to make amends. He apologized to Callie and gave all his aluminum can savings to his mother to replace the ornament. His mother immediately left for Macy’s, but soon returned to report the store had none. Ben‘s money could buy neither happiness for Callie nor release from his guilt.

At church, Ben portrayed a shepherd in the annual pageant. Callie’s long face projected less joy than any angel in the history of Christmas pageants. Afterward, she refused a treat from Santa, declaring him a fraud. Ben brought her one, but she rejected his offering as well.

Callie’s despair shrouded the family’s dinner. Ben ate little and Callie ate nothing. She sat on her daddy’s lap and sniffled into his chest during their family tradition of his reading of The Night Before Christmas. When Mom finally declared time for bed, he raced up the stairs to escape.

The door to Callie’s room faced Ben’s directly across a hall. He could hear Mom trying to soothe her as she tucked her into bed. Callie continue to whimper as Mom turned out her light and came to Ben. She sat on Ben’s bed and gave him a hug. Ben put his head on her shoulder. “Will Callie be OK?”

“She’ll get over it, Ben. Everyone does. You just made the situation a hard discovery for her.”

“I didn’t want to hurt her. I was just mad about the contest.”

“I know, Ben.” She released him and cupped his cheek in her hand. “I know you love your sister and would never intentionally hurt her. We all say stupid things, Ben. Your words hurt deeply this time. This Christmas will be hard for us all.”

“I wish I could make it better.”

“I appreciate that, Ben. Unfortunately, you are learning a hard lesson. Hurtful words are easy to say, but their damage hard to repair. You should ask Jesus to help you be more thoughtful before you speak. As to this time, you’ll have to suffer the consequences. Now close your eyes and try to sleep.”

Mother stood and crossed to the doorway, stopping to turn out the light. “Merry Christmas, Ben.” He mumbled a reply. He felt anything but merry.


Ben could not sleep. As soon as Mom left, Callie broke into sobs. He listened for a few minutes, then could abide no more. He had to do something.

Ben tossed back his covers and tiptoed into her room. “Cal?” He whispered.

“Leave me alone.”

Ben ignored her, climbing into bed and beside her under the covers. He gathered her into his arms. “I am so sorry, Cal. I wish I could go back and change what I did. I was angry with me, not you. I was proud of you. I knew you earned the prize and deserved it more than me. You worked hard.”

She laid her head against his chest and quieted. Ben stroked her hair. “I love you, Cal.”

“I want to hate you, Ben. But I know you did not mean to break my snowflake.”

They lay quietly for a few moments then a solution struck Ben. He raised to his elbow and looked at his sister. “I lied, Cal.” He could not replace her snowflake, but he could give her Christmas.

Callie raised to face him. “Really, Ben? Really?” Hope had launched the dimples at each corner of her mouth.

“It’s true. I just said that about Santa to be mean to you because you won and I didn’t. He’ll be here tonight. You’ll see.”

“Oh, Ben.” Her eyes widened with a smile that soon reached her lips. She clutched her hands at her chest. “Maybe Santa will bring me another snowflake!”

Ben paused. He did not want to lie to her again. “I’m not sure about that. We’ll just have to wait and see.” Ben leaned over and kissed her forehead. She responded with a tight hug.

“Now get some sleep so Santa can come.” He had started back to his room when Callie chirped. “Merry Christmas! I’m glad you’re my brother.” That brought a lump to his throat. He choked out a “Merry Christmas” and crossed to his room.


As Ben passed through the door to his darkened room, he came to a halt with a bump. A light flared. Now he was in trouble. He’d awakened Dad. Hanging his head to accept his fate, he noticed feet not wearing Dad’s bedroom slippers. They wore black boots! Lifting his eyes, he saw red; not the blue of Dad’s pajamas. He looked up into a face bearded in white and capped in red. “S… S… S… Santa?” The face broke into a broad grin crowned by rosy cheeks. “What’s going on? You’re not real.”

Santa chuckled. “Why Benjamin, of course I am! If I’m not real, then how am I here?”

He had a point, but he still puzzled Ben. “How did you get here?”

Santa dropped to one knee to face him. “You should know the answer to that, Ben. You brought me.”

Ben’s thoughts whirled. “How could I bring him when I don’t even believe in him?” Santa had dumbfounded him. Dropping to the floor, Santa pulled Ben into his lap.

“You see, Ben, wherever people love each other, wherever people care enough about each other to search for gifts, bake cookies, write a story, or even kiss a forehead, they give me life. On this night, above all nights, with so much love around, I fill each home. Your love for Callie brought me to you.”

Santa lifted Ben from his lap and stood. Ben rose and stood motionless in wide-eyed, mouth-gaping wonderment. Santa Claus right there with him at the door to his room. Santa took his hand and walked to his bed where Ben sat on the edge.


“Yes, Ben?”

“Could you replace Callie’s snowflake? I broke the ornament and her heart. Could you repair them?”

“I can’t repair her heart.” Ben frowned at Santa’s words. “You’ve already done that.” Now his heart swelled. “As to the snowflake, that’s a tall order at this time of night, but I’ll see what I can do.”

Ben still could not believe his eyes. He rubbed them to be sure, but Santa had vanished when he opened them. Confused, he lay down to think. But he surrendered to sleep instead.


Christmas dawned in splendor. Snow had fallen again during the night and the sunlight twinkled against it through the tree outside his window. Ben admired the snow as he recalled Santa’s visit in the night. It had to have been a dream, but it was as real as a dream can get.

Callie entered his room in careful, measure steps, with her hands cradling something at her waist. Her face beamed a wide smile and her voice bubbled. “Ben, you were right. Santa’s real! He came! He has to be real. Look what he left in my stocking.”

Callie extended her hands. A crystal snowflake nestled tenderly within. Her snowflake.

Ben bounded from bed, but then carefully leaned into her and repeated the kiss to her forehead from the night before. “I told you he would come, Cal. He always visits where there is love.”

Ben glanced to his door where Mom stood with her head against Dad’s shoulder. She flashed him a smile and winked. “Christmas is a time of miracles, Ben. You just have to believe.”

From that day on, no matter how old he became, Ben knew he would always believe.



Copyright © 2021 by Thomas M. Trezise and Daniel J. Moore. All rights reserved. Dan inspired the story. I was just the scribe.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this story without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like permission to use material from this work, for review or other purposes, please contact the author at As long as the story is not altered and no one receives compensation for its use, it may be quoted or shared with friends or family, but with proper punctuation as quoted material and attribution.

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Welcome, I'm Tom

I'm Tom Trezise a retired lawyer and corporate executive with over twenty years of experience as a Methodist lay preacher. Raised in Appalachia, I proudly call myself a hillbilly at heart. I'm the executive director of The Everyday Kingdom, a non-profit devoted to fostering a community that helps people find and experience the peace, purpose, and joy available from living every day in Christ’s kingdom.

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