What you're about to read is true...you just never know what life has in store for you :wink

There's not enough time...I thought that a lot in the last few weeks leading up to the holidays. I found myself doing it again as I glanced at the clock. Driving through the deep freeze that settled on our area toward my daughter's college town, I remembered how I told myself that same thing earlier in the day.

There wasn't enough time...

My youngest son looked up at me, eyes full of anticipation and I knew I was doomed as I looked at the time on my cell phone.

I was going to the mall.

Any other day, I'm sure I would have found some really good reason not to go, but today was Christmas Eve and Alphonz still hadn't had his long delayed meeting with Santa. I suggested we write Santa a letter, but everyday for the past few weeks he insisted he needed to talk to Santa. There was something very important he needed to ask and I promised I would make sure he got to talk to the jolly old elf in person, and a promise once made...

"Alright, Al," I said as I glanced at the time again, "get your boots."

"Yay!" he shouted and scampered off singing a rather butchered version of "Jingle Bells".

"Nik?" I said into the cell. My daughter who was waiting patiently for me to finish talking to her brother, didn't respond at first. "Hello...Nicole?"

"Yeah, Mom, sorry went for some water."

"I have to go now, I have to take your brother somewhere."

Her laughter sounded tinny and she said, "Forgot to take him to see Santa?"

"Maybe..."

"Okay, I'll see you all at Grandma's later. Bye!"

I hung up and called tentatively to my husband from the living room. "Chris? I'm taking Al to the mall now."

"What?"

This was followed by a rather loud crash in the kitchen and I paused before I said a little louder, "I said, I'm taking the boy to the mall."

"Now?" Chris asked poking his head out. "Honey, it's already a quarter after..."

"I know, but I promised..." I said and grabbed both our coats off the rack.

Al thunked around the corner, still singing his random Santa song. He'd put one boot on the wrong foot and held the other in tow by its laces. "Dad, I'm going to see Santa!" he said brightly.

My husband sighed and smiled at him, "That's great Al. Make sure you say hi to him for me and ask him if he has a good recipe for cheesy potatoes."

"Okay!"

Chris looked at me and said, "So you're just going to abandon me here with this pot full of boiling spuds?"

"Yup," I said and knelt down to help Al put on his other boot.

"Nice," he said disappearing back into the kitchen.

"I'm pretty sure you don't need me here to mash them," I said and winced when there was another crash followed by, "Don't be too sure... and if you don't get moving we're going to be late to your mother's."

"We're always late, why should today be any different?"

"Good point," he said as he came out of the kitchen to kiss me and his son good-bye. "We wouldn't want to raise expectations..."

"No, we wouldn't or the next thing you know I'd be expected to remember birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, actual names of spouses, children...pets-"

"Why are you still here?"

"C'mon Mom," an impatient Al said pulling on my jacket.

"Okay, okay we're going," I said and Al rushed to the door.

Holiday traffic was light and after a quick drive, we arrived at the mall twenty minutes before closing. I really hate the mall at Christmas. There are never any parking spaces open...anywhere and I growled to myself as I noted we only had thirteen minutes left.

Ever optimistic Al heard me and said, "You should park there, Mom." I glanced into the rear view mirror and looked in the direction he pointed. A random space had opened about as far from the door as you could get without being in the street, but with now only twelve minutes left I wasn't about to get picky.

Once inside and only ten minutes to spare, Al ran ahead. He ignored even the most colorful toy filled displays as he made a beeline for the glittering structure that beckoned in the distance. I found myself running and almost lost track of him in the shifting mass of holiday shoppers. As we reached Santa's Castle, I looked up. The castle was resplendent with its candy cane towers and faux snow covering the roof. It brought to mind, another Christmas Eve visit with Santa when I brought a little girl who wanted nothing more than a little brother.

The lone elf on duty looked tired and ready to go home. She wore a frown and just put up the velvet rope to forestall any more visitors entering the line when Alphonz skidded to a halt in front of her. He looked up at her and smiled, she did not smile back. There was a pensive moment when I came up to them.

Al may be young, but he knew exactly what that rope meant. Never one to be easily deterred from his chosen destination, especially now that he was so close, he touched it in his calculating way and ran his hand up the velvet rope.

"Well..." Al said and paused while considering how best to convince Santa's helper to let him through. He continued to smile at the elf whose frown did not lessen one bit and he cocked his head. He tapped the back of her hand and repeated, "Well, I have a meeting planned...with Santa." And without a backward glance ducked nimbly under the rope. The elf cocked an eyebrow at me, but all I managed was a weak smile as I shrugged. 'I have a meeting planned' was Al's chosen phrase of the month. The month prior was 'You don't understand'.

I glanced at Al, convinced his place at the end of the line secure, he stood bouncing with excitement at the prospect of meeting the one and only Santa Claus. The elf burst out laughing as she pulled the rope back and waved me through. Relieved I said, "Thank you, I really do appreciate this."

She chuckled as she replaced the rope behind me. "That's the best line I've heard all day. How old is he?"

"He'll be four in a few days."

"Yeah, that's a great age." The elf chuckled again and waved as she walked off and said, "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas to you too," I said and watched her as she walked over to the castle exit. On her way, the elf picked up a basket full of reindeer shaped candy canes. How cute I thought, and wondered how they managed to ship them with out breaking off all the fragile looking antlers.

****

:iria

this blogget continues in part 2