by Del Bartels

As heard on the Good Stuff with Jim Thompson


          The mall was crowded with people bustling, with electronic speakers from various stores playing competing Christmas songs, with a nondiscerning noise of too many people talking. Still, the exhilaration of one little girl’s joy could be heard, “Mommy, I see Santa!”

          The tide of walkers gently swept me closer to the cordoned off area where a red-and-white-clad gentleman was handing out candy canes and posing for photos. I eventually got the attention of one of the young ladies posing as an elf and taking payment for the photos. I asked if the man was getting paid. Not really, but his intended pay was instead going to a local charity. That was all I needed to know. I maneuvered to the “North Pole” exit path, watched and waited.

          It didn’t take very long at all. A young boy dazedly walked back to his waiting mother and quietly exclaimed, “Mommy, I saw Santa! I like the way his eyes smiled!” Above the white whiskers, under the huge hat and through the multi-colored Christmas lights, about all a child could really see were the man’s eyes.

          I walked on, continuing my window shopping, even though I didn’t really need any windows. A burly man wearing a volunteer fireman’s jacket walked by. He barely shifted over quickly enough to be missed by a child yanking its mother toward a toy display. The man smiled at me, apologized for not having brake lights, and moved on. His eyes were Santa’s eyes. A man was sitting at an information booth taking donations for the Shriner’s Children’s hospitals. Underneath his fez of a hat, he had Santa’s eyes. A little old lady, worn out from the crowd, was sitting on a bench watching the people. She offered candy to a frazzled young mother, to be then given with permission to her energetic toddler. The older lady had Santa’s eyes.

          A small group of college-aged people were singing carols. There was no donation bucket around. They were just having fun. When they looked at you, you could tell that they had Santa eyes. An older man, waiting for someone, stood up from a bench to offer a couple enough space so they could sit together. He smiled with his eyes. A young  entrepreneur at a candy store offered a free sample to one child from a family with three children. An older clerk noticed and immediately offered a sample to the other two children. The first clerk got an unspoken reprimand from her kind, but stern, Santa eyes. A wheelchair slowly made its way through the crowd. A child was riding on the lap of some grandfatherly-type. The man, and the fatherly-type pushing the wheelchair, had Santa eyes.

          Now, having wandered half a mall from the red-clad Santa, I again heard a child’s exhilarated announcement, “Mommy, I see Santa!” The tyke was pointing, but no red and white suit was in sight. I smiled and whispered to myself, “So do I. I see him everywhere, even in people who don’t have fluffy white beards. Merry Christmas.”