It was finally my turn to visit the mall Santa so I crawled into his lap. The old elf made a whimpering sound, kind of like a muffled dog toy as my 200 pounds crushed his arthritic knees.
“Here’s what I want for Christmas,” I announced grumpily.
I proudly handed him my wish list (written on a TGI Friday’s cocktail napkin.) Santa adjusted his readers to read my hand-written scrawl. I know he was thinking, “OW.”
His pain mattered not to me, though. I was on a mission.
“Santa’s” nose twitched as he read my list. A slight scowl wrinkled his brow, revealing his disapproval.
“Santa can’t hit someone in the knees with a lead pipe.”
I, of course, was very disappointed to hear this tragic news.
“And why not?”
“Not very Christmasy. And it violates the code of Good Will to Man. Santa can’t go around whacking people.”
Well that’s too bad, I thought. He’d be a perfect hit man. Stealthy. Access to the Naughty List. Worldwide travel. Elves to assist in the hit.
But I was getting nowhere and sighed. Maybe he’d warm up to the other things on my list.
“And no, and I’m not canceling Christmas because you think it’s a royal pain in the butt.”
He paraphrased the last word, I swear. I had used something much more adult and strong. But Santa doesn’t cuss.
My shoulders slumped, “Well, um, what about the Krugerrands?” I was hoping for some South African gold coins in my stocking.
Santa shook his head and then put his mitten on my shoulder.
“No Krugerrands, either.” Santa paused and asked a question that pierced my heart, “Not feeling very Christmasy this year?”
I nodded. Busted. Fatigue had been a Grinch in my heart’s Whoville.
Santa continued, ” It’s OK. I know how you feel. We all get overwhelmed this time of year.”
“Can you bring me Christmas spirit this year?”
Like a Santa version of Glinda the good witch, he said, “Son, you’ve had it all along.”
I just stared at him, stunned at the simplicity of his answer.
Santa ignored my disbelieving face and continued,
“Find gratefulness for in your heart and you will find the Christmas spirit.”
I thought for a minute about his answer. Something rang true about his words. And at that point, I was willing to try anything. So began to list all the things I am grateful for:
My safe travels.
My book doing well.
A strange thing happened as I saw the good things in my life. The mall went from a gray/brown tint to technicolor. Sounds got sharper. Music sounded lovelier. I felt the first joy that I had felt in months.
He patted my back again and said, “Santa’s present to you is gratefulness.”
It was better than socks (although I kind of like socks.). I stood and shook his mitt. “Thanks, man!”
I felt a strange peace as I touched his hand and continued my thank you. ”Now where do I send the thank you note?”
Santa rubbed his hurting knee. “Just pass this message along to someone else.”
I took back my bitter list and said, “Done. But can I just have this person’s knee’s whacked?”
Santa shook his head as I walked away. “Coal for you Ramsey. Coal for you.”
I looked back at that man in the red suit. And for a brief moment, I knew he was the real Santa after all.