We walked through a plastic curtain that was meant to be dripping icicles and entered the igloo. There was a thick patterned rug on the floor and a huge red plush throne which Santa was sat upon. There was a female elf at his side with a fake book holding loose papers. I remembered that we had been asked Willow’s name soon after we had joined the queue.
Santa looked like anyone you’d find in other shopping centres and events. He was tall and fat – though his stomach was probably padded out. His red suit was bright and the buttons shining. He had a huge white beard that looked almost real but really couldn’t be and matching long white hair. The face peering out from all of that was wrinkled and brushed with make up. Santa looked tried, but he was hiding it well behind that smile and twinkling blue eyes.
‘And who do we have here?’ Santa asked in a deep, jolly voice.
Willow walked over to him, her head and shoulders high, determined to gather more evidence for her mission. I hung back, hoping that she didn’t embarrass me.
‘Ah, Willow!’ Santa said with quick glance at the elf’s open book.
Willow stopped by his massive black boots and as if she was a toddler, Santa lifted her up and on to his knee. I had a flash thought about wondering how okay that was now a days. Willow seemed happy enough.
‘Have you been a good girl this year?’ Santa asked.
Willow nodded, ‘yes,’ she added.
The elf slide the book further down, allowing Santa to look at the pages.
‘Ah, I can see from the good list you have been! What would you like for Christmas?’ Santa asked.
‘A unicorn,’ Willow said quickly, ‘with a rainbow mane and tale, a golden horn and she has to be pink.’
Santa chuckled before saying, ‘I should be able to do that for you.’
‘Thank you,’ Willow replied then, ‘Can I ask you a few questions? It’s for a report at school.’
Santa looked a little worried and the elf’s big smile turned into a frown.
‘Go on,’ Santa said slowly, some of the jolliness gone from his voice.
‘How are you related to the real Santa? And don’t say you are ’cause I know that’s not true as the real Santa is far too busy right now.’
Santa looked thoughtful and in a whisper said, ‘I’m his cousin.’
‘Santa has a LOT of cousins,’ Willow mused.
‘He sure does but we must keep it a secret.’ Santa winked.
‘Are these elves real or just cousins too?’ Willow questioned.
‘Cousins. All the elves are needed at the moment to make all the toys.’
The elf shot me a look then give a small side nod to Willow. A clean sign she wanted me to remove my niece. I looked away, pretending I’d not seen and forcused on the glitter covered wall next to me as if I thought it was real ice. We had waited so long for this and I wasn’t about to drag Willow away…Unless she got too embarrassing.
‘But do know Santa right?’ Willow carried on talking.
‘Of course! And I’ll tell him you were asking about him,’ Santa replied.
‘What about the reindeer? Do they really fly by magic? Why doesn’t Santa get a motor, like on a speed boat?’
‘The reindeer do fly by magic dust but there is also a motor. It helps to get the sled around faster. That’s why it’s very hard to spot.’
‘What happens if things go wrong?’ Willow pressed.
The elf give a small cough and Santa glanced at her, she was tapping her empty wrist.
‘Santa has many back up plans if anything goes wrong. But everything is fully tested, so nothing ever does. Is that all? There are lots of other children waiting to see me,’ Santa explained.
Willow looked across at me then back up at Santa, ‘I guess….I’m still not closer to the truth though.’
‘The truth?’ Santa echoed.
‘Yes,’ Willow uttered as she swung her legs, ready to get down.
‘You want to know if Santa is really real don’t you?’ Santa voiced.
Willow looked startled at him and I bit my lip. It was so time to leave.
‘If you believe,’ Santa begin, ‘then he is real inside of your heart.’
Willow give a nod and slide off his knee.
‘Oh, don’t forget your present!’ the elf called and she handed Willow a gift wrapped in girly unicorn paper.
‘Is it a unicorn?’ Willow asked excitedly.
Santa laughed loudly and replied, ‘you’ll have to open it and see!’
‘Thanks for coming,’ the elf added.
Willow skipped over to me, a huge grin on her face. She showed me her present, her finger itching to open it.
‘We’ll open it at home,’ I told her.
Saying goodbye to Santa and his elf helper, we left the grotto.
To Be Continued…