Early December is when I post my contribution to the Christmas season. This was inspired by a friend who works as a department store Santa. He once described meeting a little girl with a special wish, and I took it from there.
This is included in my book, Stories: Short and Strange, available at Amazon.com and on my website.
I guess I shouldn’t complain.
I live in a nice house on a street with nice houses. I think our house is the nicest, two stories with a pool in back and a garage with room for three cars. I have my own bedroom with lots of space for my dolls and dollhouses. I even have my own TV! It’s everything an eight-year-old girl could ask for.
Except Mommy and Daddy fight a lot. It happens almost every night. Daddy will say something, then Mommy, then they both start yelling. I am usually in my room. If I’m not, that’s where I go right away. I turn up the TV or listen to music so I don’t have to hear them yell.
Sometimes they fight in public, like when we go to the Mall. I’m usually holding their hands and we are just walking when it starts. They don’t yell as loud as when they are home, but loud enough that people stop and look at us. I just have to stare at the floor and hope they stop.
This Sunday after church we were walking in the Mall. Mommy and Daddy weren’t yelling, but they weren’t saying anything either. Then when we got to the center of the Mall I saw this little house. It looked like it was made of gingerbread with bright colors. There was a short white fence all around it, with a gate in front under an arch, and one on the side. A red carpet led up to the front, and in a big chair in front of the house that was almost like a throne sat Santa Claus. I looked at Santa Claus sitting there in this big chair, and I got an idea.
“Mommy! Daddy! Can I please see Santa Claus?” Mommy and Daddy just kind of looked at each other, but we weren’t in a hurry to go anywhere, and I did say please, so we got in line to see Santa.
I guess there were about 20 other kids in front of us, so the line was slow. I was afraid it would be too slow and Mommy and Daddy would say we couldn’t wait and had to leave. But they didn’t, and after what seemed like a really long time it was my turn to see Santa.
Up close, Santa didn’t look at all like I thought he would. He looked tired and old, and when he did his Santa laugh he sounded kind of bored. I was dressed the nicest of any kid there, and Mommy and Daddy were all dressed up, and I guess he thought I didn’t need any more toys but I would sit in his lap for an hour and give him a big long list or something.
After his Santa laugh he lifted me onto his lap and he asked me my name like he did with all the other kids.
“Susie,” I said.
“And what do you want for Christmas, Susie?”
I didn’t know if I should tell Santa this or not, and I didn’t want anyone else to hear, so I just kind of whispered “I want Mommy and Daddy to stop fighting.”
Suddenly Santa’s eyes softened and he leaned a bit closer. “Oh, that’s a tough one,” he said slowly, like he was really thinking. “Do they fight a lot?”
I just nodded.
“And I bet it’s really scary for you when they fight, isn’t it, Susie?”
I didn’t want to cry. Not while I was sitting on Santa’s lap, not in the middle of the Mall. But I did want Santa to know that he was right. It was scary. I love both Mommy and Daddy very much, and I don’t want to think about either one of them ever leaving. So I just bit my lip and nodded my head as hard as I could several times. But I guess I did cry a little.
“Hummm.” Santa looked at my parents. They were standing at the exit gate, next to an elf who looked too big to be a real elf, staring toward the other end of the Mall. “ Do you think maybe Santa could do something about this?”
I nodded again. I didn’t tell him, but all the while I was thinking to myself “Of course! You’re Santa!”
“Well, Santa can certainly try.” He gently put me down, then stood up, took two steps forward, and motioned to Mommy and Daddy to come toward him. They looked at Santa, surprised, and they didn’t move. Even the elf looked surprised.
Santa motioned again. Mommy and Daddy looked at each other, then started to slowly walk toward the gingerbread house with the bright colors. Santa took my left hand, then he held out his left hand toward Mommy. I held out my right hand toward Daddy. Daddy took my hand, and Mommy took Santa’s hand. Then Santa waited until Mommy and Daddy looked at each other again, then they held hands too.
Santa smiled a nice warm smile, then said in a gentle voice. “Santa thinks you have a very smart little girl, and it’s Santa’s wish for your family that you all have a happy and peaceful new year.” I noticed Santa said the word peaceful a little bit slower and a little bit louder than the other words.
Then Santa immediately turned to me and bent down. “Susie, thank you for coming to talk to me. Now you have a merry Christmas, and Santa will see you again next year.” He gave me a quick wink, and I noticed his eyes were kind of sparkly. Then he straightened up, smiled at us one last time and moved back to the big chair that looked almost like a throne.
Mommy and Daddy just stood there for a moment, then they each took my hands as they always did and we started walking. I wondered where we were going, but I didn’t ask and it seems they didn’t know anyway. I heard Daddy say “What was that all about?” but he said it so softly I didn’t know if he was talking to us or just himself.
We walked some more. Nobody said anything. I just smiled. It was nice walking with Mommy and Daddy and holding their hands and not hearing any yelling.
Then Daddy looked at Mommy, Mommy looked back, and they each had this look on their faces, the kind of look teenage boys and girls have when they walk together in the Mall. And we had the nicest, quietest visit to the Mall that we’ve ever had.