96: Santa Knows Best

96: Santa Knows Best

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Santa Knows Best

They err who thinks Santa Claus comes down through the chimney; he really enters through the heart.

~Charles W. Howard

As I flipped the calendar to December that year, I felt sad and inadequate. Photos of my three handsome boys — ages thirteen, ten, and three — were hung throughout my home. Yet, I didn’t have a single picture of any of them with Santa Claus! How had this happened?

My oldest, Matthew, was far too shy to sit on Santa’s lap when he was small. So I respected his wishes and we waved at Santa from afar. Unfortunately, Daniel followed his older brother’s lead. Many Decembers, the kids were too sick or we were too busy and we never stepped into a mall. As I stared at the calendar, I realized my window of opportunity was quickly closing. After all, Michael was already three years old.

So I asked Michael if we should go to the mall and see if Santa Claus was there yet. He thought this was a splendid idea. For months, he had been waiting for Santa to bring him the Thomas & Friends Rescue from Misty Island set. I think he wanted verification that Christmas was finally coming and he would, at long last, get Misty Island.

We arrived at the mall and discovered that Santa was indeed there! Michael even liked the idea of sitting on his lap. However, we decided to return to the mall that weekend with his big brothers. One of the best things about having such a big gap between my older boys and their little brother has been watching the big boys relive the things they loved when they were little. I knew, even though they never actually sat on Santa’s lap, they wouldn’t want to miss Michael’s talk with him.

But then it happened again. As in years past, our few days flew by. Suddenly, it was the week of Christmas and we had not yet made it back to the mall. Also, as in years past, someone was sick. Matthew had been ill during the night. As the morning went on, though, he seemed better. So I casually suggested to all it might be a good day to go to the post office to mail Christmas gifts. After that, we could stop at the mall so Michael could talk to Santa. Everyone agreed this was a superb idea.

We got to the mall around the time Santa was getting back from his lunch and reindeer-feeding break. I brought along our camera because Matthew normally acts as our family photographer. But as I got into line with Michael, I realized I should also buy a photo in case Matthew missed the shot, since he was looking pale and tired. This might be my only chance for one of my kids to have his picture taken with Santa.

Michael covered his mouth shyly as he got onto Santa’s lap. Before the photographer took the photo, he asked if my older boys wanted to be in the picture too. I said no. They were excited to watch Michael but they made it clear they would not be photographed with Santa. What if someone they knew was at the mall? The photographer quickly took three photos so I would have my choice of pictures.

After the photos were taken, Santa quickly gave Michael a coloring book and hurried him off his lap. I was a little taken aback by this. I thought Santa would speak to Michael more. I encouraged Michael to go back and tell Santa about Misty Island. But then I realized Santa was out of his chair and moving toward me.

“Are those boys out there with you?” he asked me while pointing to Matthew and Daniel, standing just outside the festive Santa area in the mall.

“Well, yes.”

“Then why aren’t they up here, too?”

“Well, Santa, to be honest, when they were little they were scared of you. And now they’re so big, I can’t really carry them up here anymore if they don’t want to come.”

Santa strode out of his area obviously on a mission. Shoppers gawked. He pointed at my oldest two sons and demanded, “Come here.”

If I could go back in time, I would have had the camera at that point. Imagine, if you can, my big boys in the middle of a mall with Santa commanding them to come to him. To put it mildly, my sons were shocked. Daniel quickly realized that saying no to Santa Claus really wasn’t an option and he headed toward him. It took a few more seconds for Matthew’s feet to start to move.

Santa turned to me and pointed at the camera around Matthew’s neck. “Can you use that camera?”

“Yes, sir.”

Matthew and Daniel cautiously approached Santa and he carefully arranged all three of my boys on his lap. Michael was overjoyed that his brothers had joined him.

I quickly took three photos. All three reflect the shock on Matthew’s face and the joy on Michael’s.

As they gathered up their coats and returned to where I was standing, Daniel said to me, “Mom, now Santa wants you.”

Thinking something was wrong, I approached his chair. Santa said to Matthew, “Can you work that camera?” and then Santa ordered me to sit on his lap.

A wave of panic crashed over me. There are very few pictures of me in our household because I hate getting my picture taken. My wedding photos were a horrible ordeal for me. Ever since, I have been careful to avoid being photographed. In an attempt to change his mind, I cautioned Santa that I was heavier than I looked. He said it would be fine. I realized then, as the older boys already had, that you can’t really say no to Santa Claus. I cautiously sat on his knee and Matthew snapped the picture.

As we left the mall, still in a bit of a daze, I realized what Santa had just done for us. He gave me a photo of all three of my boys, even my teenager, with him. He gave my kids not just a rare picture of me, but a photo of their mom and Santa Claus. He gave us all a memory we will cherish forever. That Christmas will always be the year we all sat on Santa’s lap.

Thank you, Santa. You always know just what we really want for Christmas.

~Jill Jackson

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