Empty Chimney Once Upon a Time


Angela at four, Photo by Tony Metaxas


Angela was severely allergic to dust mites and she was always scratching herself. We had to get rid of all her stuffed animals when she was diagnosed.

As I wrapped last minute gifts for the children, I remembered how I told Angela that there was no Santa Claus when she was four years old.  I saw her letter to Santa on Christmas Eve and there was no time to get her a real Magic Wand and a Teddy Bear that wouldn’t give her an allergic reaction.  Having grown up in Communist China, I did not feel sentimental toward Santa or Christmas.  I thought that she was such a precocious child that there was no need to keep lying to her about something as ridiculous as Santa Claus. On Christmas morning I sat her on my lap and told her the “truth.”  Angela was heartbroken.


Angela at 14 when she wrote about that Christmas Morning

Years later, Angela wrote about this traumatic experience for her English class:  “The tears did not come immediately. It took several minutes for my epiphany to sink in, for the scattered puzzle pieces of knowledge gathered over my four-year-old existence to finally fit together. My world began to make terrible, terrible sense. Santa Claus was a lie. Nearly everything I knew was a lie. I could never have a pink baby unicorn, for magic pets could come only from a magic source. It was more than just Santa. Gone, too, were the fantastical fairies in the garden, the pegasi hiding playfully behind the next grove of trees. Kris Kringle killed them. He buried them with him, down in the unreachable realm of the unreal. The jolly bearded men in the mall were just actors taking a break from waiting tables. And their beards were the same cheap Chinese polyester as their flimsy suits. That broke the dams.

        I wept hysterically and inconsolably, not even stopping to breathe for four hours. It was as close as I could have come to an existential crisis. If something as sacred as St. Nick could be a mere fairy tale, then nothing could be taken for granted.”

How do you console someone like that?


Bear Bear is his name and he’s been quite a family member for 12 years.

The morning after Christmas I rushed to Ferragamo to buy her the silk teddy bear, which she has kept ever since then. It has survived twelve years of rips, wear, tear, and emergency cleanups, always safe from being tossed into a donation bin or being sold at a garage sale.

On December 26th, 2002, I resuscitated Santa for Angela for a brief period.  I hid the magic wand and the silk teddy in the basement fireplace and then told Angela that we would all go down there to see a film on the large screen TV.  I told her to put a log in the fireplace for us, and that was when her eyes lit up and she gasped, “Santa!”  A few months after that, while we were driving Angela said suddenly, “You know, Santa’s handwriting looks a lot like Mommy’s. Perchance they attended the same grammar school.”

Perchance we did.



Christmas Eve dinner was made easy by the rotisserie chicken from Costco.  Not only was it tender, juicy and flavorful, it only costed $5.  The racks for the roast chickens were empty when I got to Costco today, and there was a line of people waiting for the chickens to come out of the oven.

After I brought the chicken home, I baked some potatoes to go with it.

Ingredients for the Rosemary Garlic Potatoes:

10 red skin potatoes (quartered)

3 cloves garlic

2 teaspoon chopped rosemary

2 teaspoon chopped sage

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven at 350F.  Toss potatoes in oil and spices.  Bake in baking dish for 40 minutes.


I also made a yam casserole which had been a family favorite ever since I first cooked it.


4.5-5 pounds sweet potatoes (5 large) 

1 1/2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil 

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, or to taste 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt, or to taste


1 cup rolled oats 

1 1/3 cups pecan halves, chopped 

1/3 cup almond meal or almond flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, melted

2 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (I used 2 tablespoons)




Place yams into a large pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to med-high, and gently boil for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain and peel the yams.

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 2.5 quart (10 cup) casserole dish and set aside.

Prepare the crumble topping: Pulse the oats in a food processor until coarsely chopped. In a medium bowl, stir together the chopped pecans, oats, almond meal/flour, cinnamon, and salt. Pour on melted coconut oil, melted butter, and maple syrup. Stir until combined.

Place cooked and peeled sweet potatoes into a large bowl.

Mash yams with coconut oil until smooth. Now, stir in the maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Adjust to taste if desired. Spoon into casserole dish and smooth out.

Sprinkle the crumble topping all over the sweet potato mixture, evenly.

Bake, uncovered, at 375F for 25 minutes, until the dish is hot throughout and the topping is crispy. Plate and serve immediately. 


6 thoughts on “Empty Chimney Once Upon a Time

  1. My son David, your 10-year-old fan, also has a bear like this from Ferragamo. I bought Little Bear before he was born. I think David still believes that I got on a plane to Florence and brought LB home for him.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 嗯,对孩子讲圣诞老人仅是一个童话,确是一件艰难的过程。我们的妹夫直至7岁才由别的孩子揭破这个秘密。对于受到父母欺骗的愤怒,他一直保持到他的孩子出生。所以,他们的孩子从来都知道Santa不是真的。为了避免我女儿也落入将来受到伤害,我一早就对她解释了Santa的秘密。还好,她对童话与现实的关系,领略得和我一样,生活在哪一个世界,由自己的心境决定😇😇😇😇😇😇😇😇😇😇😇


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