It’s Christmas Story time. As usual, the names and happenings in this year’s tale were dreamed up… after a short prayer. Wishes for the very best Christmas ever from the Hayters.
The good thing about Galen’s job was the fact that few people would be able to recognize him. Except for Kate. She would know him anywhere. They had been friends since junior high, and husband and wife for 17 years. Oh, and Kate was there when he first tried on the Santa suit. She laughed, even though she assured him she wouldn’t.
It was a long hour before his next break, and he was already completely sapped. Both physically and mentally. It’s hard to believe the number of kids who are thrust upon Santa. “NOOOO! No, Mommie!” Then comes the shrill bawl.
That was pretty much a normal day. But, with a little less than a week to go, he was still trying to focus on the positives of life. He was certainly doing something different. Different’s good. He hoped it more than believed it.
He had spied Kate and the kids coming out of JC Penney a half hour earlier. The activity around the portable cliff-climbing wall distracted Bailey long enough for Kate to blow her husband a kiss. Santa caught it with his free hand.
He wasn’t expecting Kate to bring the kids to the mall today. He was only the part time Santa, and thought sure Kate would pick a time when the full-time Santa would be there. That’d be Larry from church. Larry started letting his beard grow out in late July. By December, kids would yell and point at him, telling their mom’s that “It’s Santa!” Larry was the real deal.
He was also the one who recommended Galen for the Santa job. Larry knew the family was hard-up at the moment, and just wanted to help out. While Galen was not comfortable with the job, it did supplement what he earned from stocking shelves at the discount store and his newspaper delivery job.
“Over here. Look up here. Smile!” Elf Wanda was a good photographer. She was so unthreatening to the kids. The antithesis of Santa. Of course, put her in a Santa suit and she’d be scary, too.
While waving bye to the screaming Cody, Santa said, “Okay, who do we have—“ He then glanced over to see Bailey, his six-year-old daughter, being escorted by Elf Nancy. Santa glanced over to see Kate giving him the “I couldn’t-help-it look.”
Bailey was the only Sutton in the family tree with red hair and freckles. She was a true wonderment. Her camouflage-cap and cherished Seahawks jogging outfit did nothing to detract from that wonderment. Bailey knew nothing of the Seattle team. She just liked the colors. Oh, and, she kept the camo-cap on constantly… except for bed and baths. “Don’t make a big deal of it, darling. She’ll tire of the cap when she starts second grade.” Right.
All during the usual ho, ho and what-do-you-want-for-Christmas spiel, Bailey never took her eyes off Santa. “You look like my daddy,” she finally said. “Are you my daddy?”
Galen pulled his fake wire-framed glasses further up on his face and said, “Why I’m Santa, Bailey.” – Bailey’s mouth flew open. “How’d you know my name?” – “I’m Santa,” Galen said. “Now, why don’t you tell me what you want for Christmas?”
Bailey informed Santa that she had already sent him a letter telling him what she wanted. “Don’t you eben member?”
Galen thought hard and then replied, “Oh, yes, you want some kind of explorer doll.” -- Bailey beamed. “That’s right. I wanna Dora The Splorar Doll, and a sticker machine what makes stickers, a jewelry box, a silber ring and a necklace wif snow flakes…” Bailey’s list ended with “… and a guitar.”
“A guitar? I don’t remember a guitar on your list,” Santa told her.
Bailey nodded and then explained. “That’s thcause my bruder ober dare,” she said pointing to the 12 year-old standing next to Kate, “he wants some drumbs and I wanna guitar to pway in his band.”
“Will there be anything else?” Bailey shook her head. “No, sir. That’s just what I want. But see, Mommy and Daddy always gib me the little pwesents, and you always bwing me the one big pwesent. This year, I’ll just get the one fwom you, ‘cause Daddy got laid away at work and doesn’t make any money for Cwismas.” When asked what one present she wanted Santa to bring, Bailey looked deep in a thought and then said, “I think I want the sticker machine, what to make stickers for people. And, that’s all. Or, maybe the Dora doll.”
“I see. I see,” Santa said. And, with tears in his eyes, he said, “I’ve got somebody working on that right now.”
After the photo, Aiden walked over to retrieve his little sister. He aimed her toward Mom, and then climbed into Santa’s lap. “Aiden, I can’t believe you want a picture with Santa.” -- Aiden shook his head. “I don’t, Pop. If such a thing like that got out, the guys at school would kill me. No, sir, I just wanted to see what it was like here.”
“You never did believe in Santa, did you?”
“No, Pop. Didn’t make sense. But, it’s cool that you do this. Oh, and I wanted to say I’m sorry for getting upset about the drums. You would get ‘em if you could. Things will get better.” Santa’s loving look caused Aiden to add, “Uh, don’t hug me now, okay Dad?”
Galen apologized for the near disaster. The he asked if his son had any second choices for Christmas. “Well, it’d be nice if we could get a flat screen TV and have the cable turned back on, but that’s not happening, is it” Galen shook his head. “Then I just want you to pick something out that you’d like to have. We’ve got the same taste.”
Before Elf Wanda could snap a shot, Aiden hopped off Santa’s lap and went to watch his sister while his mom sat on Santa’s lap. “What on earth are doing?” Santa asked. --“I’m hittin’ on Santa; what does it look like?”
“Hey, you can’t do that lady. Just tell me what you want for Christmas. No hanky panky.” -- “Well, let me think. What I’d really like is a night out with my husband. Maybe a movie, a large popcorn and then some seafood at Babin’s. That’s what I’d really like.”
Santa thought for a moment and then said, “How about a movie, we split a small popcorn, and then we split a meal at Black Eyed Pea?” – “Sounds great, but where would we find a cheap sitter for the kids?” – Santa gave an assuring nod and said, “I think Aiden can handle it. The kid has grown up quite a bit over the past year. Both of ‘em have. You know, a month after Christmas, I’m gonna check on e-bay. There’s bound to be someone trying to unload a set of drums. As much as I hate the thought, I think we should get Aiden a set.” That’s when Kate kissed Santa… right there in the mall.
And, that was the prelude to Christmas 2009 for the Sutton family. The only tangible evidence of the happening is a framed picture sitting atop the old 27 inch Zenith. It’s a photo of Kate, Aiden and little Bailey all snuggled on Santa’s lap.
“I wish Daddy coulda been dare,” Bailey said. “Then it would be da berry best picture dare is.” Bailey is a true wonderment. A freckled-faced, red-haired, camo-capped wonderment… with a new sticker-making machine. Oh, and a Dora the Explorer doll.