This is a story from one of my childhood Christmases. Our family was pretty poor, and we lived in an ancient, run-down apartment. We never got anything we wanted, but Christmas was the exception to that.
Every year on December 25, there was always a gift box with a present inside. Inside I’d find stationary or cheap toys, but Santa had prepared it especially for me, so I was always happy. I still believed in Santa at the time, so I never thanked my parents, but I did take care of everything and put it away in my desk like a secret, treasured gift. My father was a drunk who always lectured me about things, and my mother hated him and was only concerned with her own troubles, so I never once thought that the gifts might have come from them.
Around the third or fourth grade I realised that Santa wasn’t real. I was deeply moved when I discovered that my parents were putting away money to buy me something each year, and this time I swore to myself that I would thank them. On the night of Christmas Eve, I could barely sleep. I kept thinking about what present I might get, and how I would thank my parents. At some point I must have fallen asleep, however, because a noise woke me up. Something was rustling near my pillow. They were leaving my present for me, I thought in my sleepiness, and I grew so curious that I had to look. I opened my eyes just a little and took a peek.
I almost screamed, but I managed to swallow it. A dark figure stood by my bed, but it wasn’t my mother or father. It didn’t even look human. It had a vaguely human shape, and where its face should have been two eyeballs looked down at me. It had no nose or mouth or hair. Its eyes somewhat resembled my father’s, but it very clearly wasn’t him.
I don’t know whether it was fear or sleepiness, but I fell back asleep again. When I next woke up, it was morning. The present was still by my bedside. What on earth was that thing the night before? I had no answers.
Inside the box was one of the newest, most popular game consoles at the time. Only a few kids in my class even had it. I don’t know why, but I cried. I ran into the kitchen and asked my mother about it. She said that my dad had gone out drinking the night before but hadn’t returned yet. So then, it really wasn’t him… I decided to stay quiet about the present. They watched me strangely as I played it, so they really seemed to have no idea where it came from.
These strange presents continued until I was in the sixth grade… It wasn’t until I got married and had kids of my own that I realised the Santa I had seen was probably my father’s ikiryo, or living spirit. By that point, my father was in the hospital with liver cancer, so I went to visit him and apologised. I think he really wanted to be a good father, but he just wasn’t able to do it. And so, those feelings emerged as an ikiryo every Christmas Eve.
As for me, my only son is turning four soon. My wife and I talked about what to give him for Christmas, and I was firmly against leaving a present by his bedside, although I wasn’t able to explain why very well. I nervously waited for him on Christmas morning, and then heard the sound of his footsteps coming down the hall. Seemed he was awake.
“Papa! Thank you!” He came running towards me holding a box. I dropped the present I was holding at my feet.
Seemed the strange presents weren’t finished yet…