The light turned red; the traffic inched forward to its new position. I stared out the side window, the same shopper passed me by, again.
"Mommy, look," Sammy said, his pudgy finger pointing.
"Well done, Sammy." I signaled, and turned into the strip mall parking lot. "You've found just the thing for Grandpa and Grandma." At least I'll have a present for them.
"Santa. See Santa." It was the first time I had seen Sammy's eyes sparkle since we moved.
"That's right, Santa." I pulled the car into a spot and turned it off. "Stay put big guy. I'll come around for you."
By the time I got him, Sammy was running in place. "Let's go. Hurry."
"Okay. Okay. Settle down."
Sammy took my baby finger in his fist and pulled me along the store fronts. Santa was set up in a plain shop between a discount flooring outlet and a family restaurant. "Come on. Hurry."
"I don't think he's going anywhere."
"Hurry, Mommy, hurry."
"I'm coming." I picked up the pace slightly, prolonging it for him and stretching it out for me. Sammy was thrilled, and I was sopping it up.
Standing at the glass door, Sammy tried to push it open by himself. I gave him a little help, so we could go in.
"Ho, ho, ho. Who do we have here?"
"Sammy. Santa, I'm Sammy . . . and Mommy."
I waved and Santa's elf smiled. She wore shoes that turn up at the toes and candy-cane striped tights, and short dress made of green felt. As she turned her head pointed ear and dark smudges under her eyes were visible.
"Here, Sammy, we need to get your coat off." The elf organized Sammy's clothes and gave him a small candy cane.
I mussed his golden curls. "Come on little man."
Santa shifted in his royal throne. The padding was a deep red, just like his Santa suit. Tinsel was gathered at corners with fragrant evergreen bunches.
Santa made a big show of arranging himself, then looked around as if he missed something. "Now I could have sworn there was a little boy around here somewhere."
"Do you mean me?" Sammy ran to the man, but slowed down once he was near. Putting his forefinger in his mouth, Sammy stared.
Santa must have seen something in Sammy's face. His voice changed from cheerful to soft and gentle. "Yes Sammy, I've been waiting for you."
I choked up and looked away, because I knew it wasn't true.
The camera clicked a few times as the two of them spoke.
"So, have you been a good boy this year."
I turned around in time to see Santa reach out for Sammy. My boy looked so small in the man's lap.
"Yes Santa." Sammy glanced over at me. "Mommy, say it."
"Sammy was a very good boy this year."
"And what do you want for Christmas?"
"Ahh . . . " Sammy stretched up and Santa bend down. All I heard was whispering.
"You're mom is right. You are a good boy." I looked away again and wiped my eyes.
I hope he didn't ask for his father to come home.
Once Sammy was satisfied the two got up from the throne. We all gathered around the computer station.
"What a wonderful picture. Sammy, you never told me you were a professional." Santa chuckled.
"Do you have package deals?"I asked, wondering if there was room on my card.
"I don't think I've seen such a nice pictures. Ellen, take the boy to the tree I need to talk to Mom for a moment."
Once the two were looking at the ornaments on the Christmas tree Santa took my elbow. "First things first. He's wants some Lego."
That I could do. "Thanks . . . about the photos--"
"How about a deal? I give you the best five shots and you let me use my favorite for my advertising campaign next year."
I was stunned. How did he pick the number five?
"I just need you to sign a consent form. Okay, now that that is settled let's pick out your border."
A moment later, I had an eight-by-ten and four smaller prints tucked safely under my arm and we said our good-byes. Still shaking my head I pulled the door open. I hadn't bought anything for the rest of my family. No money. it was so odd that after coming here I didn't need to.
"Bye, Sammy. Have a nice Christmas, Sarah."
When the door swung closed behind me, I turned. The pictures were still under my arm. I could feel their bulk, but the shop was dark. The door locked--no throne, Christmas tree, no Santa.
"Merry Christmas, Mommy." Sammy took my baby finger in his little fist.
Bio: Anna Simpson and her family enjoy living the good life near the Canadian-US border. If you look for her online, you will have more luck Googling Emgainette. which is her web persona. If you find some time drop by her blog ‘Shout with Emaginette’ @ http://emaginette.wordpress.com. I know she would be thrilled to have you visit, and get to know you a bit