Thursday, December 8, 2016

Letters to Santa

“Five hot chocolates please.”
She smiled, nodded and turned around.
I pulled a half-dozen napkins from the dispenser and watched the kids flutter around like butterflies from the airplane to the racecar, the rocket, the horse and then up and down the slide and in and out of the castle. I wondered when they’d ask for quarters to make the gadgets go up and down.
“Can I get some quarters with this?” I handed the girl a ten and she handed me two hot chocolates.
Mall shoppers were weaving around the play area with Christmas colored bags.
I found the closest table in the food court that wasn’t filled with weary looking moms, dads, giddy children and Christmas colored shopping bags.
I set down the napkins and drinks and then pulled four sheets of paper from the notebook I’d kept tucked under my arm. I placed them around the table.
I retrieved my change and hot chocolates from the food court vendor and raised a cup when my granddaughter looked my way. She said something I couldn’t hear to the others and they all came running.
We sat around the table, with hot chocolate, paper and pencils. I could see the big red mailbox with a sign on a stick poked into some fake snow that read “Letters to Santa.”
The kids got busy making their list, all the while chattering about what they wanted from Santa. “…and a waterbed…and four tsum tsums and…”
 A waterbed?  I rolled my eyes and my head and noticed the table next to us sat a little girl with a sad look on her face.
I smiled.
She looked at her hands folded on the table. An older version of herself sat next to her filling out a form for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree.
The little girl looked at us, well, she looked at my grandkids laughing and writing and sipping hot chocolate.
I pulled a sheet of paper from the notebook and held it out. “Do you want to write a letter to Santa?”
Her eyes got wide. She turned in her chair, looked at me, the paper and then at her older self. “Mommy?”
Her mom stopped writing. She didn’t lift her eyes, at first; she just stared at the table. Finally, she pulled in a slow breath, raised her eyes and her mouth made a smile but she still looked sad. She started shaking her head—
“I have plenty of paper—” I held up the notebook—“and I even have an extra envelope and pencil.” I smiled at the little girl and then held up a pencil and envelope and looked at the mom.
She laid her hand on the Salvation Army Angel Tree form and shrugged. “But, that’s what I’m doing, filling out this form—” She looked at her daughter—“I mean, writing this letter…to Santa.”
I nodded and looked at her hands. I think they were shaking, a little. “That’s one of the best ways to let Santa know what you want for Christmas.” I looked at the little girl. “That form your mom is filling out goes straight to the Chief Elf in charge of the toy department.”
When I said that, she made sort of a frown, folded her hands back on top of the table, and looked down.
I looked both ways real quick and leaned toward her and whispered, “I work for him.”
“He does,” my grandson chimed in. I smiled. “They know.”    
The mom placed her pen back on the form, made a smile that looked forced and said, “Okay Sugar, what should I tell Santa you want for Christmas?”
The little girl shrugged and turned her head slightly toward me. “Does it really go to the…toy department?”
I smiled. “It sure does.”
She let out a sigh and didn’t smile.
Her mom looked at me and shook her head. “I have no idea what she wants. Every time I ask she just goes real quiet.”
I did what I always do—well, I don’t always do it, but I always should—I whispered a prayer inside my heart—Lord, give me wisdom here.
I lifted the paper and pencil back up again.
“You know, this is North Pole Special Edition paper.”
She looked at me and wrinkled her nose.
“This doesn’t go to the Chief Elf, no, it goes straight to—” I started to say, Santa, but instead I said—“The Chief. It’s not just for toys, either. It’s for other stuff.”
The little girl’s eyes got real big and she turned toward me, leaned forward with her hands on her knees and her little feet started swinging back and forth in scissor fashion.
The mom set her pen down and her mouth dropped open.
I rattled the paper a little. “This is for what can’t be made in toy factories…it’s for stuff that can’t be bought and for stuff that’s hard to put into words. But that’s okay, ‘cuz it can read your heart and… ” I stopped because the little girl’s bottom lip started to quiver and her eyes got real shiny. All of a sudden I got a lump in my throat. “…and it can deliver your tears.”
Her mom sat up straight and looked away. She lifted her fingers to her eyes. Her voice cracked when she said, “Her dad and I…we—” a sob interrupted her.
I looked at mom, held up the paper and nodded toward the little girl.
Mom lifted her shoulders up and down, nodded, bit her bottom lip and let out another sob.
I handed the paper to the little girl. She curled one arm around the paper so no one could see and began to write.
Have you ever watched a movie where all of a sudden everybody froze, everything went silent? It was like that. It felt like the world stopped and the only thing moving was the little girl’s fingers. The only sound was the pencil sliding across the North Pole Special Edition paper.
Her mom’s face was froze in a pose that said: I can’t believe this, I’ve been trying to get her to do that for weeks.
And then, after an eternity of a minute or so, the little girl sat back. Never taking her eyes off the paper she slid it in slow motion toward the edge of the table—toward me.
Her mom leaned forward and read the words. Another sob. She stood and picked up her little girl. It was muffled through sobs and hair and hugs and sniffles but I could still make out the words. “Oh Sugar, even Santa can’t do that. Only…” another sob.
I whispered, “The Chief…only The Chief”
The little girl pulled back from her mom’s embrace and looked at me. She made a little nod and for the first time lifted a little smile.
I looked at the paper, noticed the salty wet drops, were they hers or mine?

Dear Chief,
The only thing I want need for Christmas is for mommy and daddy to get back together. You can give my toys to a little girl who needs them more.

Iluvu & pray4u

1 comment:

LoveAndTruth said...

Doug, Kelsey and I are driving right now and I just read this story out loud to Kels. As I was reading it I had to stop a couple of times or I would have cried. I felt a little embarrassed at first until I finished the story and looked over at Kelsey who was balling. This allowed me to cry. All I have to say is AMAZING. This story is so touching and it made me feel as if I was there.