Here's a Christmas tale I'd like to tell, about illness, the season of giving, and a big brother who decided to play a Christmas prank. I don't remember what the year was, but I know I was young, like 8 or 9 years old. Well, my brother is 6 1/2 years older than me, so naturally, I looked up to him back then. And even though this prank was very cruel, I still do.

This particular winter I was super sick -- the flu, bad cold, I don't remember. This was like almost 30 years ago, and I just remember I was sick. The house I grew up in is in Naches, and the bedroom that my brother and I shared, shared the wall next to our living room's fireplace. So, when the fireplace was lit and going (back in the days before nonstop burn bans) it would help warm up our bedroom and that wall. Nothing dangerous or risk of burning the house down, it just warmed up that wall, and my bed was next to that wall. So needless to say, it helped make the cold winter's slumber nice and toasty warm.

Before we went to bed, excited for Santa to pay a visit, I asked if we could keep the fireplace going, cause I was freezing cold (sick, duh). My brother protested. "How would Santa come in, if there was a fire?" It was a valid concern, but I wasn't feeling well, and I trusted in the magic of Christmas and the magic of Santa. Here's where the prank comes in ...

We went to sleep, but my brother woke up at some point in the night and went into the living room, to find that Santa had indeed come -- no problem -- due to magic. He saw how the cookies and milk were gone, and presents were left. The normal bartering process that we do every year. Well, my older butthead of a brother, went and replaced the cookies and milk, hid all of the presents, and the topper ... took a Santa hat, and burned the just the edges and left the hat on the fireplace. He then went back to bed.

We woke up early the next morning as most excited kids do, and ran out into the living room. I wish I could say I was as good as a detective and observant as I am now, noticing how there were fresh cookies, but crumbs still on the plate, the glass had moved to the other side with a fuller amount of milk. Or how could Santa, being burned alive, leave his hat, but then close the glass fireplace doors, all without leaving ashy fingerprints? Or why would ALL of the presents be gone, not just the ones from Santa? But nope, I was little, saw no presents, saw the charred hat, and I just started crying hard and loud.

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This woke our parents, who came rushing out of the bedroom to their little boy in tears. "I killed Santa!" I screamed through tear-drenched eyes and bubble boogered nose. To which my parents looked around, and saw Chris (my old brother) start to laugh. Not only did he get into trouble, but I got to take one of his gifts from Santa.

Now to give credit where credit is due, and why I still love my brother more than anything else: The next Christmas Eve, whether it was the memory of the previous year and guilt, or not wanting to lose another present,  we went to sleep (me not sick this year), and about 20 minutes into our bedtime, he yells out, "Timmy, did you hear that?" I was asleep, so I didn't. He then told me how "Santa was here!" We jumped up and ran to the window. He pointed out the window and super excitedly was saying "That's him, that's him! Do you see him?"

You know what? I did. Granted, it could have been an alien spaceship, a low-flying satellite, or Santa. But I saw it. Big Brother looking out for me again. That Christmas was one of the best ones I remember.

But the year before that SUCKED!