Saturday, December 6, 2008

Meeting Santa

Santa was at Walgreens, meeting children and posing for photos.

"Let's go for a ride," I told Ulysses after breakfast.

"Noooo. I'm not going for a ride," he replied.

"C'mon, we're gonna go out and see Santa Claus."

"Nooo, I'm not gonna go out and see San...." he trailed off, stopped and turned toward me. "I'm gonna go out and see Santa Claus!" he crowed.

Moments later I was helping him squirm into a full set of winter clothes. But when I brought out his boots, he said, "Nooo. I don't wanna wear boots. I want to wear my Thomas shoes."

His Thomas shoes are sneakers. The ground outside was mounded with the year's first thick snowfall.

"These boots will protect your feet from the snow," I said. "They'll keep your feet warm and dry. Your Thomas shoes aren't for this weather."

"Noooo. My Thomas shoes are magic. Boots are not magic."

"You know who wears black boots?" I asked. "Santa Claus."

"Boots! I'm wearing black boots! Mama, put these black boots ... on!"

* * *

At Walgreens, we caught sight of Santa and Ulysses stopped short, fell silent. His eyes widened. There he was, the great one. In person.

"Come on, Ulysses," I said, taking his hand and gently pulling him forward. I repeated again what I'd been telling him on the way over: "Santa's here to meet the children. He wants to talk with you and find out what you like. You can tell him what kinds of toys you like. Here are the cookies we're giving him. He brings us presents, so it's only right we bring him something, too."

Ulysses dragged behind me, following with slow little steps. Santa saw him and called over to him. "Hello, little boy! Do you want to sit on my lap and tell me what you want for Christmas?"

I looked at Ulysses. His eyes shone, but at this suggestion his mouth changed from a little smile to a little "o" of astonishment. He shrank back. Santa smiled and greeted him again.

I watched as the two of them eyed one another across the stretch of glossy retail floor. Santa smiling gently; Ulysses as close to a swoon as I've ever seen him.

Then Ulysses seemed suddenly to become conscious of the zip-top sandwich bag of cookies that he was gripping with both hands. He drew himself up a little, and boldly stepped forward, all the way to Santa's chair. He held out the bag, his arms nearly straight before him.

"Here, Santa," he said in a soft voice. "I brought these cookies for you."

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