A long time ago Misty and I took a holiday season job in a Miami
department store in a poor neighborhood.
She was the photographer who snapped and sold the pictures of the
children on Santa’s lap. I was Santa.
The Santa suit and the whiskers were hot,
but it was an unforgettable experience.
Little poor kids would tell me their dreams,
which I knew could not come true for them, at least this year,
but they had faith in Santa,
and even a “maybe” from me made their eyes sparkle.
Somehow, I felt guilty.
One little boy asked me how come Santa Claus is white.
I told him I hoped he wouldn’t hold that against me,
and he assured me he wouldn’t.
There were always a few raggedy strays
wandering around the toy department,
giggling and touching all the magical things
that would soon belong to someone else.
Some of them laughed and pointed at me, but never came too close.
Others showed off to their pals by climbing right up on my lap,
as if they weren’t scared at all.
One little girl, dressed in filthy rags, was too small to climb up on my knee,
so I lifted her up. She weighed nothing.
I wondered if she was old enough to talk, as she just smiled at me.
Obviously, she was alone and uncared-for.
I asked her where her mommy and daddy were and she said, “Drunk”.
Then she confessed her love for me.
I asked her what she really wanted most for Christmas,
and she lisped, “New shoes”.
She wasn’t wearing any this winter.
“Merry Christmas! Ho-Ho -Ho”, I choked,
as she climbed down to be replaced by the next in line.
When business tapered off I searched the whole store for the little girl,
to buy her a pair of new shoes, but I was too late.
She had disappeared and I never saw her again,
except in my mind every Christmas.