Merry Christmas to you all. Today I have a short story for you that I wrote many years ago. It has a Christmas theme and was inspired by something a gorgeous young girl said to me whilst I was in Harlem, New York. I hope you enjoy it.
It was a typical Christmas in New York, with snow-covered streets, carols jingling from mysterious locations and people undergoing last minute shopping. Colourful advertising adorned daily newspapers and civic decorations heralded another Yuletide season.
It was his first time ever as Santa Claus but he was committed to the task. Wearing the heavy uniform and the chunky leather boots was uncomfortable, and the furry whiskers irritated his sensitive skin. His own personal recollections of Santa were vivid, but to emulate the great man was challenging. The effect the loud, red uniform had on children amused and humbled him. Little ones stood back, stared in awe or hid coyly behind their mother’s skirt; peering out when they deemed it was safe. He thoroughly enjoyed their innocent reverence and he appreciated the opportunity to be someone children revered.
The business concept was simple enough; common in most large Department Stores. Parents paid for their child to sit on Santa’s knee for five minutes or so to chat about their expectations, talk about reindeers, elves or any issue related to the North Pole. The money they paid covered a small gift that Santa found in his sack, plus a photographic memento of their child sitting with Santa.
The first day was tiring but satisfying. Most children had been respectful; very few of them were cheeky. Some of them were shy, few cried, whilst the confident ones asked priceless questions that tested his imagination. Older children approached him dubiously, though most of his clients felt safe and secure.
Early on the third day he spotted two black kids on the edge of the never-ending crowd. It was a mystery why this pair had caught his attention. Maybe it was their expressions, how they were dressed or, possibly the fact they were not accompanied by an adult. The young girl couldn’t have been any more than five-years-of-age, dressed in boy’s trousers that were far too large, a red coat that was way too short and ugly, black rubber boots to weather the snow. A colourful woollen cap sat snugly on her head, covering curly black hair that appeared randomly at the edges.
The young boy looked to be about seven. He wore a suit that was well out of fashion and trousers that were three inches too short. The bright yellow socks clashed with well-worn but highly polished shoes too large for a lad of his age. He also wore a cap with some logo embroidered on the front of it. It showed obvious signs of wear and tear which possibly indicated that it was his favourite. The two kids stood together holding each other’s hand, staring at proceedings. Obviously, this was a special moment for them. Their faces held an intensity of pleasure, seen only in the eyes of children viewing something of great interest. Also, they were standing on the edge of the crowd, not with the children who’d sit on his knee for a price.
He spontaneously smiled and waved to them, not really knowing why. It was an impulsive reaction that came from somewhere deep down inside. The children looked blankly at one another then responded with generous smiles.
‘Hi Santa,’ said the young boy. Momentarily he was lost for words as he stared at their beaming faces.
‘Hi kids,’ was all he could muster, but it was the young girl’s response that stirred something inside.
‘You have a nice Christmas, Santa. Say hello to the reindeers for me,’ she said with wide eyes. Unexplainably, his heart missed a beat. He waved them over as paying customers waited patiently in line. Gingerly the young boy led his sister by the hand, respectfully removing their caps as they stepped onto the exulted platform. The boy’s hair was extremely short, whilst a mass of curls highlighted the girl’s stunning eyes.
Sitting on his knees, he encouraged them to smile, beckoning the store photographer to take a snapshot.
‘So, what’s your name young fella?’
‘I’m Joshua Regan, sir. This is my sister, Missy.’
‘Well I’m glad to meet you Joshua … And you too Missy. Now what are you hoping I’ll bring you for Christmas?’ The lad didn’t hesitate.
‘Well, Santa. Missy and I are happy for anything, but I did write you a letter. Did you get it?’ He was startled. It was a question he’d not yet encountered and felt pressured to respond.
‘I’m sure I did but, as you can imagine, I receive so many of them.’ Joshua pulled back the flap of his coat and delved into a pocket to retrieve a crumpled piece of paper.
‘Santa, I brought a copy with me today. I kept a copy in case it got lost in the mail. Missy and I came specially to give it to you. You see, we don’t want anything for us, but we have a special request for our mum and dad.’ He took the crumpled letter and read it. Tears welled in his eyes as both children sat respectfully in silence, waiting for the great man to finish reading Joshua’s personal letter.
‘Wow. That’s a mighty fine letter Joshua. Is your address on here?’
‘Yes, sir. I put it on the top, just near the happy face that Missy drew.’ Glancing at the top of the letter he saw the address and the happy face he’d referred to.
After three days as Santa Claus, this was his most challenging moment.
‘Okay. I’m really glad you came to see me today, especially to make sure I received your letter. Listen, take a little gift from me and the elves and I’ll have a good read of this letter when I get back to the North Pole tonight. It’s Christmas Eve and it’s sure going to be busy for all of us up there.’ Reaching down he pulled two gifts from his large white sack. Their eyes widened with expectation. Missy reached up and kissed him gently on his cheek.
‘Thank you, Santa. I hope you have a great Christmas. Don’t forget to say hello to the reindeers for me. I just looooooove reindeers,’ she said as she slid off his knee and waited patiently for her brother to thank the generous man.
‘Thanks Santa. You know, it’s been worth walking all that way just to see you today. Thanks for the gifts,’ said Joshua, clasping his sister’s small hand and accepting the photographs from Santa’s helper.
‘It’s sure been a bleak, cold day today. Did … Did you two walk here through all the snow just to see me?’ he asked.
‘Yep. It’s about twenty blocks from our house. We don’t have any money for a bus, but gee willikers … It’s been a great day. Thanks, Santa.’ Joshua and Missy smiled and walked off. He coughed nervously and took a breath to regain his composure as a familiar voice caught his attention.
‘Bye Santa. Don’t forget them reindeers.’ It was Missy, waving to him before they forged their way through the crowd of onlookers. For some unexplained reason he savoured the role of Santa for the rest of the day. The appearance of two exceptional kids had lifted his spirits.
It was unusual for him to be working so late, but acting as Santa did not allow him to forego the daily responsibilities of his normal position. He sat in his office and read Joshua’s letter for the third time.
2314-75 West Fifty-Third Street
New York City
My name’s Joshua and my sister, Missy, and I have a special request. We don’t want anything for us but we would love something for our mum and dad. Missy and I know you are busy, looking after all those reindeers and elves. Our mum and dad are the bestest in the world and it hasn’t been easy for them lately.
Mum’s been sick for a long time and we reckon a new coat would put a spark in her life. Dad, well he wants a job. He had a good job but was put off because they had no work for him. He looks all the time for work but it isn’t easy because many other folks are looking too.
Santa, Missy and I know you will do your best. But if you’re too busy we will understand.
Thanks for reading our letter and Merry Christmas to you and Mrs Claus.
PS: Missy wants you to pat the reindeers for her.'
The large grandfather clock in the hallway had just struck eleven as he dressed in his Santa costume one more time. It was snowing lightly as the car drove slowly through the heavy traffic. The trip took longer than anticipated, but he finally found the address, parked and approached the front door. It was certainly in a poor part of town but, from the moment the squeaky gate swung open, a warm and inviting feeling pervaded his presence. The front of the old apartment had been painstakingly adorned with homemade Christmas decorations. There were pinecones sprayed with silver paint, dried corncobs made into a happy face and tinsel had been draped over the front door and windows on either side. Children had added a touch of simplicity to the Christmas spirit of this home. Simple drawings of reindeers were plastered across the windows, a crudely built sleigh hung over the door and a simple sign welcomed the man from the North Pole.
Walking onto the old rickety verandah, a collection of highly polished shoes were clearly visible; neatly lined up in order of size. Deep down he wanted to knock on the door and say ‘hello’ or at least ‘Merry Christmas’, but he decided against it. It took four separate trips to deliver what he’d brought. Slipping an envelope under the door, he finally turned back to his car with feelings of satisfaction. He’d almost reached the front gate when the front door opened and a ray of light spread across the snow-covered pathway.
‘Hey, man. Can I help you? Well, well, well, if it ain’t Santa.’
Turning, he found a tall black man standing in the doorway, joined seconds later by his wife. Stepping onto his verandah, the man noticed the colourful packages that had been delivered. His wife bent down and picked up an envelope. Both of them stared curiously.
‘Hey, Santa. What’s going on?’
He stared at the young couple then walked back to introduce himself, removing his white beard and hat as he approached.
‘Hello,’ he said. ‘My name’s Harry Chapin. Are you the parents of Joshua and Missy?’ The black couple looked at each other blankly.
‘We sure are. How do you know our kids?’
‘It’s a long story,’ he said.
‘Listen, Mr Chapin, my name’s Roland and this is my beautiful wife Malou. It’s Christmas Eve. You better come inside and tell us. Don’t worry. The kids are fast asleep upstairs.’ He smiled and shook hands firmly; glancing at the gifts he’d left for them.
‘Roland. Give me a hand to bring these gifts inside out of the weather,’ he added.
Entering the homely apartment, he was impressed by the neatness and the hospitality they offered. The decor was old-fashioned and certainly inexpensive, but everything was orderly and spotless. It had been caringly maintained.
‘Did you know that Joshua and Missy walked twenty blocks today to speak to me, or should I say … Santa?’ The black couple gawked at him and replied in unison.
‘They did, and they came on a special mission.’
‘Really?’ exclaimed Roland.
‘Look. I’m the Managing Director of Salsburys Department Store. This year I wanted to take a more active role in the running of our store, instead of being locked up in an office every day. In fact, I’ve made it a policy for all senior staff to regularly spend time on the floor to keep in touch with our customers. Kids are really honest so I decided to be Santa Claus for a week and it sure has been an experience. My wife and I can’t have any kids so I really enjoyed the role.’
‘I’m sure it has been. Good for you,’ Malou interjected.
‘Anyway, today I saw your two kids and, for some reason, I was drawn to them and I called them over. They sure are exceptional kids. Here, you better read this letter they gave me.’ He passed over the letter that Joshua had written. As the black couple huddled together on the couch to read the letter to Santa, he stood up and approached their Christmas tree. On the floor he recognised two small parcels he’d given Joshua and Missy that very morning. Picking them up, he noticed two things that surprised him. Neither of the gifts had been opened and attached to them was a small card written by Joshua and Missy. The children had sacrificed the gifts he’d given to them so they had something to give their parents for Christmas.
Holding back tears of admiration for two small kids, he returned to his seat as Roland and Malou finished reading the letter.
‘Man, we are so lucky, eh?’ said Roland with quivering lips. Malou wiped tears from her cheeks as Harry Chapin continued.
‘I told my wife what happened today. When I produced that letter from Joshua, both of us decided to make your Christmas a bit happier than it would have been. Malou, there is a parcel there for you. Roland, that envelope’s all yours. There’s a parcel for Missy and Joshua as well. Oh, and the large one there is for all of you.’ The young couple gaped at him in amazement.
‘Listen, I’d better get going,’ he said, stood up and headed for the door. Turning to thank them for their hospitality, he could see they’d been moved by his visit.
‘Hey, Mr Chapin, how can we ever repay you?’ asked Roland.
‘Well, two ways. Firstly, you can call me Harry. Secondly, keep doing what you’re doing. You have two fine kids. Merry Christmas to you all.’
‘Hey, Harry. We will pray for you and your wife at church tomorrow. God bless you both.’
It was the start of a New Year. Harry Chapin sat in his office going over papers for an upcoming board meeting. There was nothing but good news for the Board of Directors, having had the most successful Christmas on record. Glancing proudly at the figures, his secretary called via his intercom.
‘Mr Chapin. There’s a Mr Regan here with a letter that says he should report to you personally.’ Harry smiled broadly.
‘Send him in, Kate.’
Roland Regan walked into the office wearing a brand new suit he’d received from Santa.
‘Good to see you, Roland. Man, you look like a businessman from Wall Street. Great to see you. Anyway, how was Christmas?’
‘Thanks, Harry. It was the best ever, thanks to you. Oh. By the way, I have two things for you. One is this gift here from us, and the other is a letter my son asked me to post to Santa. I thought you’d be the best man to give that to,’ he chuckled.
Harry Chapin smiled at his comment, opened the large parcel and lay back in his chair to fully appreciate what lay before him. Sitting on his desk was the most beautifully decorated hamper of homemade jams, pickles and biscuits he’d ever seen. They’d been individually decorated. Even the labels had been hand-written.
The two men sat talking for near on an hour. As Roland left the office, Harry Chapin said something that made his guest smile.
‘Hey, Roland. Get that beautiful wife of yours to come in here for a chat. That woman’s very talented. We should be selling this exquisite merchandise in our store.’
‘She’ll be delighted Harry. Thanks man, thanks heaps.’
Grinning, Harry Chapin opened an envelope addressed to Santa Claus.
Missy and I want to thank you for answering our prayers. It was great to meet you and we only wish we were awake when you called at our house. Hope you liked the biscuits we left for you. Mum’s a great cooker, eh?
Mum is so happy now, and that beautiful red coat you gave her looks so cool. Dad was pleased to start work again. He starts at that big store where we met you. Amazing, eh? I reckon he’ll do okay there because it’s a nice place and he’s a good worker.
All those gifts you gave me and Missy just made it the bestest of all Christmases. Funny thing is that Mum and Dad thought the little gifts we gave them were the best of all. Dad just loves that little car and mum reckons that small reindeer is so cute. So does Missy.
Santa if you ever need a hand next Christmas, Missy and I will be there for you. Missy asked if your reindeers have any babies could you call them ‘Roland’ or ‘Malou’.
Thanks heaps, Santa. You’re so cool.
Joshua and Missy
Harry Chapin wiped happy tears from his cheeks, picked up the telephone and called his wife. He knew exactly what she’d say when she answered the phone … Hi Santa!
Clancy's comment: What can I say? Have a great Christmas everyone. And ... If you know someone who is elderly, alone or maybe doing it tough, call in on them and spark them up a bit. Better still, invite them over to your place. You never know. It might be the nicest thing anyone has done for them in a long time.
Stay safe, and have one for me.
PS: You can send this onto whoever you wish, but let them know that I own the copyright.
Think about this!