I took the kids to Wal-Mart today to start our Christmas shopping. Under normal circumstances I would already be done with our holiday purchases, but I decided to delay the stress this year. I love Christmas. I love the spirit of giving, and hot cocoa on cold winter nights, and poinsettias and Lifetime holiday movie marathons on the weekends. I DO NOT like the pressure of picking out the perfect gift. That is why my siblings and I have purposely decided to give each other the crappiest gifts we can individually think of.
The trip to the store was fairly typical. Stone and Liya made adamant requests to look at the inflatable Santa and Frosty displays, and I was forced to oblige if I wanted any semblance of a peaceful visit to the megamart. We got through the “can I haves” and “I wants” and the anticipated “no you can’ts” without too many tears.
Elderly White women (who just LOVE little brown babies) approached our cart to coo over the kids and inform them of how precious they were. One asked the children if Santa was coming this year.
“No,” said Liya, shaking her head vigorously. She coughed violently, forcing one platinum haired shopper to take three steps back.
It appeared as though she was about to pat the children benevolently on the head, but suddenly thought the better of it. Liya frowned and rudely blew raspberries at her, cementing the decision.
“Ah, you’ve got a little cold I see,” she croaked kindly.
“Mmmhmmm,” Stone confirmed. “Dinosaur.”
“Yes. Dinosaur,” the elderly woman parroted.
Old ladies like to have unintelligible conversations with toddlers. I can see why. It makes them appear lucid and superior.
A few minutes later we’d finished making our selections and walked towards the self-checkout lane. This was supposed to make our trip go quicker, but there is a small game room with a merry-go-round and electronic gadgets to occupy the kids’ time with. The pair of them would not be denied the right to ride the horsie and play games. I sent them over and purchased my items before they had a chance to get settled.
“It’s time to go,” I said flatly, hoping that my firm voice would compel them to obedience. It didn’t.
“Noooo Mawmie!!” Liya screeched. “I want ride the horsiiieee!!”
I popped a quarter in the machine and waited for it to boot up. It didn’t. Upon close inspection, I saw that my quarter was stuck in the machine. One of the cashiers told me I’d have to go to customer service to get my money back. I put the kids in the cart, who made it a point to scream in protest with every step I took. There were 8 people in the line ahead of me. If you’ve ever been to the customer service line in Wal-Mart, you know that that’s an eternity in wait time. I took a deep breath and steeled myself. Stone and Liya did what came naturally to them. They hit each other, dove off the edge of the buggy and created mayhem in general. Was all of this worth the 25 cents I had lost? Yes. That’s half of my toll fare on 400. I stayed in line.
I looked at the other customers who had joined the queue. There was a guy returning a bicycle, a woman with a cart full of items, and a chick with a small bag. One gentleman had an enormous TV, still sealed in the box. He looked behind him and smiled at the kids who were running amuck. We were getting close to the register. I put the kids in the cart and prepared to explain that I needed my 25 cents back. Ashlee, the portly cashier with way too much foundation and a curly wig opened her drawer and produced two dimes and a nickel. I thanked her and prepared to leave the store, grateful that the kids had not made as bad of a scene as they are capable of.
As I got the main walkway, I was approached by one of the guys who was standing in line.
“Hi, how are you today?” he asked.
“I’m fine thanks,” I smiled. I waited for him to try to sell me something or hand me a track. I give him a quick once over but didn’t see anything for sale.
“I just wanted to give your kids something,” he said in a low kind voice.
He produced a wad of bills and handed them to Stone.
“This is for you to buy something for Christmas young man,” he smiled.
Stone looked at him quizzically. He wasn’t used to strangers handing him anything, other than compliments on his looks. The man walked around the cart and tried to hand Liya a ten dollar bill.
“No!” she yelled, and pushed the money away.
That’s right! I thought to myself. Don’t be taking money from no strange men, Liya!
Outwardly, however, I laughed and took the money on her behalf. The man smiled at the kids and I and walked away to a bleating, childish chorus of “thank you” and “Merry krishmus!!”.
I have never believed in Santa Claus, for a number of reasons that really don’t matter anymore. However, I have always believed in the idea of Santa, that being the spirit of kindness, sharing and compassion for those who are less fortunate. This year, thousands of children will spend Christmas without a warm home, in the midst of war, or without someone to love them unconditionally. That’s why the spirit of Santa Claus (and his twin brother Baby Jesus in his golden fleece diapers) is so important. Because although my children will not be among that number, a kindly gentleman with green eyes and texturized hair made it his business to make sure that at least two children were blessed this Christmas season, just as Santa would.
My only regret is that I did not ask him his name…