I was five years old when my mom rushed me through Rich’s department store in Atlanta so that I would get a chance to see Santa. If I remember correctly it was on Christmas Eve. So I am certain Santa had seen lots and lots of children.
There was one problem. We couldn’t find Santa. The throne- like chair he had occupied was empty, in fact, workmen were taking it down even as we stood there. The store itself would be closing soon for the holiday.
So my mother found an attendant who, though she must have been pretty ready to go home herself, was very understanding. She looked at me sympathetically, and assured me that Santa was going to stay till the store closed, he had only been relocated to a spot closer to the exit so that he could readily get into his sleigh when it was time to go.
The attendant lead us to what seemed like at the time, a long hallway. She pointed me toward a door on the far left where Santa could be found. I don’t remember why now, perhaps she had some more last minute shopping to do, but my mom didn’t go with me. I remember feeling a tiny bit spooked as I rounded the threshold.
When I looked into the narrow rectangular room, I was a bit taken aback. There at the far end of the room, sat Santa. The first thing I noticed was that he didn’t have on his traditi0nal red suit. This one looked identical to the red one except that it was sort of a turquoise color. Kind of cool looking but not what I was expecting.
The second thing I noticed was that Santa looked REALLY tired. He was sitting there with his face in his hands. He was rubbing his face. I just stood there, unsure of what to say. Something finally made him look up. He did a big eye roll as if to say, “Oh great, another kid, I thought I was done.”
So after a big sigh, Santa said, “Ho…ho….another big sigh…ho…Merry Christmas there kid….okay…lets a big breath out puffing out his cheeks….come on over here and tell me what you want for Christmas.”
I took some tentative steps toward him. He picked me up with a big groan and sat me on his knee. I remember when I got up there that I could see some toys he had. There was a cardboard box beside him that would have easily been big enough for me to stand up in without being able to see over the top. It was apparent that at one time the box had been full of plastic spindle tops. Now there were only about two or three in one corner. Yes, Santa had seen a WHOLE LOTTA KIDS.
Finally, after Santa had put me in the box for a moment and let me get a spindle top, I got back on his knee with a new found courage. Finally I asked the question that was at the forefront of my mind.
“Santa, why do you have on a green outfit when you usually….”
“I’m his brother okay kid.” Santa interrupted. “I’m his brother (another big sigh) and…uh (puffed out his cheeks again and fluttered his lips)…you tell me what you want, and I’ll make sure and tell him…okay…lets just do it that way.”
Not wanting to make waves or cause a Santa family conflict, I dutifully rattled off a few items. As I hopped down and headed toward the door I took one last look back. Poor Santabrother had pushed his Santa hat back on his head and was vigorously rubbing his forehead.
I guess he was able to hook up with the real Santa later, because as far as I can remember, I got what I asked for.