Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Santa and the Tricycle Rider

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

Perhaps distracted by bitter cold settling down out of the mountains, the Christmas shoppers scurried on past as the little girl danced back and forth from one foot to the other. One wonders what they might have thought had they understood. This shopper might have read her as impatient. That one might have smiled while remembering  her own children needing a public restroom when none was in sight.

Mamma? Mamma! MAMMA! Can I? Can I, please?”

The mother's brow knit with perplexed concern. It was against their family value system. On another day, she would have answered in the negative and prodded the little ball of agitation on in hopes the request would soon be forgotten amid the haste of the day. If you could ask her all these years later, she might not remember why she relented. The truth is she really didn't think she was relenting when she answered with a challenge meant as a deterrent.

Hopeless Optimist
They locked eyes. If ONLY the request was for the nearest public restroom. The mom shrugged. “Ok. BUT. You have to cross the street by yourself,” came the battle cry meant to stop the dancing dervish in her tracks.

The little girl spun on her heel and marched to the curb faltering only a bit if at all. She was, after all, the tricycle rider extraordinaire. She was familiar with roadways. Today, there was nary a dump truck in sight to foil her plan. She gulped and looked both ways just as she'd been taught. The object of her affection was too close to let a little thing like a main thoroughfare stand in her way.

On the courthouse square was a sight too regal for mortal eyes to behold. In truth, it was probably not much more than the shell of an old timey outhouse that had been retrofitted for the season. But, to a little girl whose eyes beheld magic all around, the splendor implied was enough to fill her tiny eyes with matchless wonder. And hope.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
She gave a short glance over her shoulder and pushed off the curb without looking back. Her trotting steps kept her ahead of the fear of crossing the road alone. She was breathless more from excitement and anticipation than effort by the time she reached his house. Hansel and Gretel's house of candy and gingerbread could not have been any more splendid.

Santa's helper invited her in as a requisite jolly laugh filled up the space within and spilled out the door to greet her. In truth, she took a deep breath to still her anxious heart. Her young head told her tiny heart it was the bravest thing she'd ever done to cross that road and defy the family rules. Yes, she'd done it with permission. Permission did not change facts. In her house, Santa was just a story with which other families toyed.

There might be hell to pay for her little act of permitted anarchy. Still in all, on that cold day so long ago and far away, it seemed worth the risk. She hopped up on his lap trembling from the terror of both him and of what she had done. How could she have grown up to be a fraidy cat?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
His eyes twinkled just like the story said. Until he began to fight back tears. “Well, little girl, what's your name, and what can I do for you today?” He smelled of stale, but not unpleasant, pipe tobacco.

Mister, listen? I know you are not Santa. I know he is just a story. Don't worry. I don't tell the kids who believe because I don't want to ruin it for them. If you don't mind, I just wanna pretend. For just a few minutes. I wanna pretend you are real. Will you let me do that?”

His eyes widened and darkened. He nodded his head in agreement. You could see he sized her up quickly as a pragmatist and a realist who needed a break from reality. She had actually asked for something he could provide. He was in on the caper without a 2nd thought.

Courtesy M. Horrocks
Santa, I don't have a chimney, but I guess you can figure your way around that if you can figure out how to get around the world in 24 hours. I don't want much. I'd like a baby doll for my baby sister. I'd like some clothes and a record player for my brother. I'd like some tools for my Dad and a new coat for my mom. I know you can't do a thing in the world about that, but thank you for letting me pretend.”

His eyes were wet and shiny. “Honey, do you want anything for yourself?” he asked.

The upturned baby face nodded negatively and gave a little, wise laugh. “No. And even if I did, you couldn't do a thing about it. But, you've done enough. Thank you, Sir. Merry Christmas.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
He reached down into the bowl at his elbow and handed her 3 pieces of candy. “Here you go. One for you AND your brother and sister. Have a Merry Christmas, Darling. Santa won't forget you.” He ho-ho-hoed again as she climbed down out of his lap and exited his fairy tale house. This time his laugh rang hollow as if he had given away some of his energy during the transaction that had just occurred.

He promised not to forget me. A promise I am sure he did not keep given the volume of children who visited his house thru the years. I, however, thought of him again this year as I do every year. I closed my eyes and could see Santa's house adorning town square sitting on its perch amid the towering sycamore trees. I could see the glint of tears beginning to form in his eyes as I talked. My heart raced in tandem with the little girl heart headed for an unknown future.

It was a singular act of courage and one I never repeated again. Even today I love to linger and watch the interaction between Santa and children wherever retailers let him set up shop. I watch and remember the gift I was given. I walked into his house a hopeless optimist and came out with an even stronger conviction. No mater what, I would choose hope, optimism, and, yes, every once in a while, even a bit of self-made magic. Even if it scared me to death.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
A new year is upon us. Choose hope, optimism, and – once in a while – even a little self-made magic. Even if it scares you to death, fraidy cat. Love you long and strong. Come back soon, and bring a friend?

Romans 15: 13 (English Standard Version)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

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