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A few years ago Misty and I took a holiday season job
in a Miami department store in a poor neighborhood.
She was the photographer
who snapped and sold the pictures of the children on Santa's lap.
I was Santa.
The Santa suit and the whiskers were hot,
but it was an unforgettable experience.
Little poor kids would tell their dreams,
dreams which I knew could not come true for them,
at least this year.
They had faith in Santa
and even a "maybe" from me made their eyes sparkle,
but somehow, I felt guilty.
One little boy asked me "How come Santa Claus is white?".
I told him I hoped he wouldn't hold that against me,
and he assured me he wouldn't.
There were always a few raggedy strays
wandering around the toy department,
giggling and touching all the magical things
that would soon belong to someone else.
Some of them laughed and pointed at me,
but never came too close.
Others showed off to their pals by climbing right up on my lap,
like they weren't scared at all.
One little girl, dressed in filthy rags,
was too small to climb up on my knee, so I lifted her up.
She weighed nothing.
I wondered if she was old enough to talk,
as she just smiled at me, wide-eyed.
Obviously, she was alone and uncared for.
I asked her where her mommy and daddy were,
and she said, "Drunk".
Then she confessed her true love for me.
I asked her what she really wanted most for Christmas,
and she lisped, "New shoes".
She wasn't wearing any this winter.
"Merry Christmas! Ho -Ho -Ho", I choked,
as she climbed down to be replaced by the next in line.
When business tapered off a little later,
I searched the whole store for the little girl,
to buy her a pair of new shoes.
I was too late.
she had disappeared, and I never saw her again,
except in my mind every Christmas.
Christmas is a time of sad happiness.
We can purify ourselves by condemning those who commercialize it,
but if the stores were closed it would take away much of the fun.
Bar rooms are lined with the lonely, clinging to each other.
Bartenders are Parent Images.
Displaced Yankees dream of gently falling snow,
that never turns to slush;
and wandering Romeos often return, temporarily, to the family fold.
Telephone wires hum with long distance calls
between people who care about each other in December,
which is better than not caring at all.
After shave lotion is unwrapped with oohs(!) and ahs(!);
toys are getting ready to be broken, and puppies inhabit stockings.
Trees are always the "most beautiful ever",
if you just turn the bare side to the wall,
and eggs flow like nog.
Roaring hearths and good fellowship are for the extremely fortunate,
but some will settle for a bag of groceries.
For certain people, this will be the first Christmas;
for others, the last.
"Merry Christmas" will be said in shacks, castles, prisons, airplanes,
battlefronts, and churches.
Christmas should be rerun in the summer.
No matter what we say is wrong with it,
Christmas is a time when many people are a little nicer...
and that's something.
Copyright © 2000 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved.