Impatience, mostly, from everyone in the mall except those of us in line to see Santa, because we all have children and are too focused on distracting their impatience (pointing out Christmas lights, analyzing the 6 potbellied, dancing-on-hind-legs, oversized reindeer heralding Santa’s stage, asking what the giant packages under the 3 stories of Christmas tree might contain, resorting to bribes involving candy canes) to have time for any impatience of our own.
Wafting from the cheesy gold star at the top of the three stories of Christmas tree: Cobwebs, startling me.
A man ahead of us wears his jeans tucked into his Uggs. I find this fascinating and can’t stop staring at a certain concept-in-action.
At the mall-cart closest to the line for Santa, the salesgirl wears a fake hairpiece—a giant, bounding ponytail that doesn’t move and is a fraction darker than her real hair. Eventually I realize she is wearing the piece because in addition to the glittering tiaras and rhinestone encrusted butterfly clips she sells, she also sells hairpieces in every color imaginable. Most of them strike me as having just been lifted from the horse. Or unlucky pony. Or, in some cases, the magic pony…
A girl behind me, say 10 years old, bumps my purse repeatedly. Each time I am bumped, I turn to her. She gazes at me with Princezzin-eyes that I swear plead for a conversation with my soul, but when I broach a greeting, she turns away. This goes on until my son returns from gallavanting the mall with his father, pushes to my side and immediately confronts the girl, demanding to know what she thinks might be in the fake presents beneath the 3 stories of Christmas tree with the cobwebs wafting from the cheesy gold star. They study the presents together, converse. Easily.
Oh, this is a good Santa. He looks the part—round face, real spectacles and believable (enough, anyway, believable enough) beard. My son consents to sit on the plush knee. He tells Santa about the Bat Cave toy and Santa tells him a joke as he pats his other knee for me to sit on, indicating the arm of the fabulous fir-green chair for my husband. It’s only when we’re leaving the stage that I realize Santa and I never made eye contact, no matter how hard I smiled and stared at him and I realize part of me felt as if Santa was sad, despite his wonderful, jolly performance. Perhaps he was tired. Or maybe I reminded him of someone—I honestly do get that frequently, the old, “Have we met?”: Our vet the first time I brought the dog in, and the second time, my son’s first pediatrician, and the second, more than 1 Trader Joe’s clerk (but I’m a regular, so it would make sense). Perhaps there’s another me out there making the city-rounds before I do and perhaps Santa thought I was her and that’s why he wouldn’t look at me. Perhaps she did something ghastly that made him sad—a Christmas pie in the face, say, or the return of a gift (unopened), or a snide comment about his weight, or she stole his magnificent, ice-glazed, Mr. Clause pen, or—
My husband’s deduction: Merry Christmas, PB (swinging our child up to his shoulders, then quickly down when our child protests)! Time for lunch.
And, just like that, our stint of waiting 40 minutes to see a man in a costume is over. Hello, Christmas: Your (not sad) bells are ringing. Or that might be the kitten’s collar. Ah, well. Whatever. We’re merry!