So this happened …
I am sitting on the train on my way to work, listening to my iPod, when a little hand pats me on the arm getting my attention. I look to the adorable tyke standing in front me. I am bad at children’s ages because they are all so big now, but I was guessing about six years old. Colorful red and white barrettes peeking out from under a snow-white and purple knit hat that coordinated with the purple parka she wore. The mother, fussing with a little boy in her lap -clearly her son- hadn’t realized her daughter had moved until the child in all her wide, pretty half-moon, long lashed, wonder filled brown eyes looks up at me and asks:
“Hi. Do you know Santa Claus? Is he real?”
I’ll take this moment to explain that, as I do each year the week or so before Christmas, weather permitting, I am wearing my bright red, double-breasted ¾ length wool coat with a wide black leather belt. I’m also wearing an off-white scarf wrapped around my neck and a bright red wool hat, with a nice snowy white fluffy pompom on top. My nod to the holiday season as it were. Thus why she felt she could come to me with such a question. The mother smiles apologetically, getting ready to tell her not to bother me, but I speak right over her in that voice we adults reserve for little children as I remove my ear buds.
“What in the candy canes makes you ask a question like that, sweetie?” I smile.
Hey, dressed as I am, it does kind of require I toe the party line – don’t judge!
“Patty in my class says there’s no Santa Claus.” And I can see the plea in her eyes still wanting to believe.
“Oh honey, Santa Claus is magical. He’s only real to those who really believe he is. Someone mean probably told Patty that Santa isn’t real and she believes them. And now because she really believes them, there is no Santa Claus for her anymore. That doesn’t mean Santa won’t be there for you. And what do you believe?”
“I think he’s real, but now I don’t know.”
“Why don’t you know?”
Because we are on the train, I didn’t want her to be in the way as people enter and exit, so I look at the mother and ask if it’s okay, before I pick the child up and put her on my knee.
I know. I know. But really, where else was I going to put her?
“Well, Patty says I don’t have to be good for Santa because there ain’t one…”
“Say there isn’t one, not there ain’t one” I interrupt, correcting her without thinking.
“That’s what Miss Jackson says, too! But I keep forgetting.” She smiles, the veracity of her teacher now confirmed, as she keeps on going. “Patty says there isn’t one. She says I have to be good and nice only because Mama won’t get me nothing if I don’t.”
I bite my lip, from correcting her again, but she’s a smart little cookie and sees my face.
“Oops! Mama won’t get me anything?” She corrects herself unsure. I grin giving her an approving squeeze.
“Well I can’t speak for your Mama. Mamas have their own rules separate from Santa’s that you should to listen to. I will say that you should be good, not just for Christmas or around your birthday, because you think you’re going to get a present. You should try to be good always because it’s the right thing to do. It makes everyone around feel nice when you do and don’t you feel nice when you do good things even when you know you’re not going to get a present for it?”
“Well there you go!”
“But even nice to Nicky?” She whines, pointing at her younger brother still squirming in her mother’s lap. I laugh.
“Nicky is going to get on your nerves a lot while you’re little, and you’re going to get on his. That’s what happens sometimes with siblings. I am sure he won’t seem quite so bad to you when you’re both much older. Not even Santa expects kids to be perfect all the time. Still, you should do your very best to be good always, and be nice, even to him, okay? ”
“Okay,” She sighs reluctantly, “I’ll try.”
“Claudia, we have to go.” Her mother stands with Nicky, who starts whining loudly.
As she slides from my lap, Claudia looks at me as if to say See?
“I know little brothers can be such doo-doo heads sometimes, right?” I whisper making her giggle in surprise, winking as she returns to her mother.
“Say Merry Christmas to the nice lady, Claudia.” The mother also mouths a grateful thank you to me.
Claudia runs to back to me with her arms open, so I lean forward for the hug.
“Merry Christmas, Claudia.” I give her a quick squeeze and send her to her mother.
Ladies and gentlemen that is my last good deed of this crazy year. I now aim to misbehave and reserve the right to be as much of a pain in the ass as I want to be for these last few days of 2016.
Merry! Happy! Joyous!
Let’s see how others are slicing it up as we race toward Christmas and Hanukkah.