This all happened last week and I have been meaning to post about it. I just wanted to make sure I had the right words before doing so as this will be a memory I will never forget.
Zoe has been talking about Santa for months now. She has been so enamored with the thought of some jolly old man that is going to bring her a present as long as she is a good girl. She has also been talking about what she is going to ask him for Christmas, blue ice cream and a Mudgy doll. So this year we decided to get all the grandbabies dressed up and venture into River Park Square so the kids can sit on Santa's lap and get pictures taken. I explained to Zoe for about a week what we were going to do and she was so excited she could hardly sit still. The day that we were going, I put on her very pretty dress, did her hair extra special, got Cooper all dressed up and the excitement in the house was almost palpable. Zoe talked almost the whole way there about asking him for her ice cream and doll and that she was going to give him a big hug and sit on his lap! She talked about it so much that the excitement got the better of her and she fell asleep. When we got there she practically ran, not knowing where she was going, but she knew she was seeing Santa, so her world would be so right.
We got off the elevator and came around the corner, and there he was! Her eyes lit up with excitement in a way I have never seen before. We got all the kids ready and took off their coats and the weight of what was about to happen began to sink into her little heart. As she walked up with her grandma, holding her hand, her little grip started to get tighter and tighter. Her cousin went first and he screamed the whole time. She waited and watched as her cousin's trauma unfolded in front of her. She became nervous, but she walked right up there when it was her turn.
To my astonishment she froze. She sat on his lap, but wouldn't look at him, wouldn't smile for her pictures, wouldn't speak. The pictures ended up looking like mug shots with Santa instead of a wonderful moment captured on film. When Santa turned to her and asked what she wanted for Christmas she froze again. Didn't speak, didn't move. It looked like she was in shock a little, her sweet little body would not let her do what she had talked for weeks about doing. Finally, Santa said, "How about I bring you a dolly and this little guy a truck? Is that ok?" She moved for the first time in a little nod. Had you blinked, you would have missed it. Then it came time to get down and she some how found her voice. She said quickly and a little louder than normal, "Merry Christmas Santa! I love you Santa!" then rushed away.
The relief in her eyes was so apparent. She had made it through. You could see the wheels in her head turning so fast that she stood in a daze for a few minutes. Then as we walked away, headed to go eat lunch, her grandma asked if she had asked Santa what she wanted for Christmas, and her ivory skin went even more pale. Her eyes became wide and she stopped in her tracks. The light bulb had just gone on that she had not asked him! There was a mix of terror that she wouldn't get what she wanted, embarrassment that she had forgotten and shame that she didn't have the courage to do it. By the time this all came flooding into her little mind, we were too far away to go back at that time. So we told her that we would go back and see him after lunch.
She sat, not so patiently, as everyone ate, but not for long. Unable to sit still, she paced back and forth waiting for us to finish. Finally, when we were done, she ran out of the restaurant, as fast as her little legs would carry her. We got back onto the elevator and she was wiggling with anticipation, she had a plan! She darted off the elevator and we came around the corner again. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw his chair. It was empty. Santa was gone. Where he had sat before was a note saying that Santa had to take a break to feed his reindeer. She was devastated. She stood at the edge of carpet, looking at this empty chair. In her little eyes, she had lost her chance. Santa would never know what she wanted for Christmas, all was lost. We walked back to the car, a little slower this time with a definite somberness to her stride.
As we drove away, she burst into tears. "We have to see Santa! We are leaving Santa!" she cried. It was heart wrenching for me. Had the babies not been fussy, I would have stayed with her there, I would have made this experience so wonderful for her. I then told her that we would come back and see Santa another day. I had to! She needed to overcome her fear and she needed to tell him.
A few days later, we packed up and went into the Valley Mall. This time, we weren't dressed up, just had on our regular clothes, but she was determined. We waited in line for what seemed like an eternity. All the kids ahead of us were dressed up, their mother's fawning over them, combing their hair. But not me. I stood with the most patient little girl in the world. She stood, not able to see Santa at that time, waiting, knowing that she would get a second chance.
There was a boy ahead of us that was autistic. He was there with his mother and was so excited he could hardly stand still. When it came time for his turn, he marched right up there and handed Santa a page from a catalog. I couldn't see what it was for, but he was explaining to Santa in great detail about what he wanted, here was a picture, and here is my address. Yes, I heard him say, "I wrote it on there in case you got lost." He gave Santa a high five and walked away, but as he walked away, he turned for one last look at the man that would make his Christmas wish come true. There was that light in his eyes that I had seen in Zoe's a few days before. I got a little teary eyed when I saw it. It was so innocent and there it was, the true wonder of Christmas.
It was Zoe's turn now. She walked right up to this jolly soul. Her grip had not changed on my hand, which let me know that she was ready. She let go, and stood right in front of him. He was so kind and told her that her hat was fun because it had a ball on it like his. Then came the moment that we all had waited for, the culmination of her little being at that very moment. "What can I bring for you on Christmas, little one?" he asked. And she proudly said, "Ice cream." Santa giggled, his tummy shaking like in all the stories, and made sure he heard her correctly. She said, "Yup! Ice cream and a Mudgy doll." He looked lovingly at her and said, "Well if you are a good girl, I'll see what I can do, ok?" She said ok. He gave her a high five and she started to walk away, holding my hand once again. She then let go and ran back to him and gave him a big hug and said, "Merry Christmas Santa!" Then she ran back to me. I had tears in my eyes. The pride I had in my heart at that time was overpowering. This is why I had children. This is why I stay home. To experience the wonder, love, joy and faith of my children.
I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I did. It is truly one that I will remember for all time. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and that you remember the joy and innocences you had as a child during this time of year. Never lose it. Cherish it and share it with your children.