Bryan buttoned his coat and looked at himself in the mirror. The transformation was always incredible, but then it had to be. When he took over for his dad, he knew he would have to alter everything about the way he looked.
After all, he couldn’t have little kids knowing he wasn’t the real Santa.
Satisfied with his look, Bryan headed out the door to get started.
He loved the Winter Wonderland. It was a tradition, one started almost fifty years ago by his grandfather. Bryan’s dad took over when he was little, but he announced last year that he was done. He wanted to enjoy the holiday season with Bryan’s mom, who was diagnosed with dementia a year ago. Bryan understood, but he wasn’t sure he was up to the job just yet.
It didn’t matter though, he was up.
The festival was in full swing already, but Santa made his appearance after dinner every night. Bryan saw a line already all the way around the carousel. He hated keeping the kids waiting.
Cheers erupted from the crowd when he took his seat. With a nod to one of his elves, the kids were brought forward, one at a time.
“Ho ho ho,” Bryan barked. “Merry Christmas little one, how are you tonight?”
“Hi Santa!” the boy exclaimed. Bryan smiled, the edges of his beard tickling his cheeks. He loved the joy Santa brought to these kids. “I love you, Santa.”
The kid threw his arms around Bryan’s neck. Bryan laughed his Santa laugh and hugged him back. Some kids just needed to know someone cared, and he was okay with that. Others wanted the latest toy. And some were only there because their parents forced them to go, wanting that iconic shot of their kid with Santa.
Bryan loved all of it.
“Can I tell you what I want for Christmas?”
“Of course,” Bryan bellowed. “I’d love to know. It makes things easier for my elves you know.”
One of the elves moved closer as the boy told Bryan all the things he wanted to Christmas. When he jumped down she handed the list to his mother before bringing up the next kid.
Bryan listened to requests for two hours. Kids wanted everything from a stuffed animal to the latest XBOX to a new cell phone. The parents smiled and snapped pictures, the elves wrote furiously, capturing every whispered request for the parents. The line was starting to die down, but Bryan kept up his hearty laugh and smile, knowing each child was special.
After another two hours the line had vanished and taken Bryan’s energy with it. The festival was about to close for the night, and he was ready to sleep. Bryan worked as a pediatrician during the day. It was Friday, but it’d been a long week, and Bryan needed a few hours to himself.
“Wait, please,” came a voice from the distance as Bryan stood. “Santa, please wait!”