Tommy still believes in Santa.
He’s eight and I imagine the day will come when he announces that he knows that Santa doesn’t exist.
But for now, he believes. And yes, some of his friends have told him that Santa isn’t real and he comes to me saying, “If they keep saying that, they won’t get any presents.”
I decided to take the kids to Wal-Mart so they could see Santa. He’s there all throughout December on the weekend. Normally I take them to the mall, but it’s usually crowded and they don’t like you taking your own photo since they want you to fork out twenty bucks for a grainy shot that they take.
Last year we did the mall thing. As we waited in line, Natalie had skipped around me, promising that she’d sit on Santa’s lap. But when it was our turn and Santa beckoned us over, Natalie freaked out. She grasped onto my leg and started to cry.
“No Santa,” she sobbed. “NO SANTA!”
Tommy went over to Santa and went, “Sorry, my sister is loud.”
I picked Natalie up and she wailed into my shoulder. When Santa was done talking to Tommy, he asked Natalie if she wanted to see him.
“Are you sure you don’t want…” Santa trailed off.
“Um, no, I think she’s good,” I said. It was a nice offer but I didn’t think Natalie would even let me go. Her fingernails were digging into my skin and my ears were ringing from her shouting.
This year, however, she said she wasn’t going to be shy.
So into Wal-Mart we went. I wasn’t sure where Santa was set up so I asked a worker where Santa was.
“Who?” she said, blinking.
“Santa. You know, red suit, white beard,” I answered politely.
She scratched the side of her head. “Uh. Back by the shoes I think. Somewhere back there.” She gestured towards the back of the store and then went back to organizing the shopping carts.
Santa is easy to spot, so we just headed into the back.
“Do we get to see him?” Tommy asked.
“I’m not going to be shy,” Natalie said.
I thought there would be a crowd around Santa. But no, there was just a photographer, picking at her nails, and Santa sat in a large red chair.
Tommy went first. He settled down on the chair and smiled up at Santa.
Santa, it seems, wasn’t much of a talker. But that was okay. The picture was FREE.
I wasn’t sure if Natalie would freak out again. But she cautiously approached Santa and settled on the seat.
“He smells like mint, Mommy,” she called out. “Like a candy cane. And he has a beard and white hair like my Papa!”
I snapped a photo.
Natalie didn’t seem like she wanted to leave Santa.
“He smells like mint,” she kept saying.
“Tell Santa thank you and Merry Christmas,” I prompted.
“Like mint!” Natalie prattled on. I think she almost wanted to ask Santa if she could have him for Christmas. He could be a big toy that smelled like mint who sat in the corner of the room with her giant Rapunzel doll.
I eventually pulled her away from Santa and asked if she wanted to see a magical place. The Wal-Mart bakery. I love drooling all over the cakes.
“I have to pee,” Natalie said, not appreciating the rows of chocolate cakes in front of us.
“This peeing thing is annoying,” Tommy grumbled.
“Try doing it everyday, wherever you go,” I said.
I took Natalie to the bathroom and we left soon after that.
Natalie spoke all day about how she met Santa and how he smelled like mint.
I hope all the future Santas we encounter smell like mint. Otherwise she’s going to be all, “You’re an imposter! You don’t smell like a candy cane. Who ARE you?”
And that’s not going to be a fun.