OK, call me crazy, but today at lunchtime, I walked the few blocks from the office tower where I work in downtown Toronto up to the Eaton Centre, one of Canada's largest & best-known malls. Call me even crazier, but one of the reasons I braved the absolutely insane crowds was that I hadn't yet made my annual pilgrimage to see Santa. Now I wasn't actually going to line up & sit on his knee, of course -- I haven't done that in a good 40 years. But one of the little pleasures of Christmas for me -- a respite at a horribly busy time of the work year -- has always been to hang around Santa's castle for awhile & watch the jolly old guy visit with the kids. I get a real kick out of watching their varied reactions.
For many years after the loss of our daughter, I avoided Santa like the plague -- waaaayyyy too painful. I remember being at our local mall with dh in November 1998, right around my due date, & rounding the corner to see Santa's castle already set up & Santa himself already enthroned & receiving visitors. Of course, at that very instant, he was holding a newborn baby wearing a tiny red sleeper & Santa cap. Dh hissed at me, "DON'T LOOK!!" & dragged me past.
Gradually, after several years, I was able to return to Santa watching, although some years have been harder/easier than others. One of those first years back, I leaned over the rail to look down on Santa's castle, & Santa immediately looked straight up at me & waved, as if he'd been expecting me. Freaky.
So today, I watched & chuckled as I watched a little girl toddler wearing a red velvet dress, her hair in pigtails, howl as her mother placed her on Santa's lap, just long enough to snap the precious picture & then be whisked swiftly away. And I grinned as I watched a dad herd his two kids into Santa's presence. The boy was about six, raced forward & plunked himself without hesitation onto Santa's lap & started chatting away. His younger sister kicked at the ground self-consciously & didn't even want to look at Santa. She sat on her dad's lap beside her brother & Santa. I found myself mentally framing the photo in my head & thinking what a great, funny picture this would make for a scrapbook page.
And then, out of the blue, I felt a wave of pain wash over me, and my eyes began swelling with tears, and I had to turn and walk away.
Back at the office, several people came by to tell me that one of our former co-workers was at the reception desk, showing off his baby daughter, and how cute she was. We've had quite a few such "visitors" lately, & I've been doing pretty well with them. But even before I remembered that her name was Katie -- the same as my own daughter's -- I knew I just couldn't do it today. I stayed in my cubicle until I was sure they were gone.