Surprisingly, Daniel found himself having a good time too. Sure, for the first few seconds, he had to fake being jolly. But the kids’ joyful reaction was so infectious that he soon got into character. Thanks in part also to the numerous youtube Santa videos he had watched feverishly last night . An onlooker would have thought he was loco, practising his “HOHOHO” in front of the mirror, and walking around with a large cushion under his T shirt .
He gave out presents and answered a barrage of curious questions
“Santa, does Rudolph’s nose really glow? Can it be switched off ?”
“Have you ever got stuck in a chimney before?”
“Santa, do you really know if we are naughty or nice? ”
“What’s your favourite cookie Santa?”
“Can I touch your hair puh-lease?!”
He felt really tickled at each question but did his best to keep a straight face and answer them in all seriousness.
Finally the last child in the queue came forward eagerly. He had familiar large brown eyes and a cherubic smile.
“Jason! How about a picture with Santa claus?”Kathy came forward with her camera.
So this was Kathy’s boy. Daniel noted
The boy looked a little awkward as he turned back “umm, no thanks mum. I need to talk to Santa alone. Could you please go away for a while? Please? And no eavesdropping! “
Kathy was surprised at her son’s strange request, but retreated none the less. Daniel raised a bushy brow in surprise and gestured the boy to come forward.
“Yes! Young man, what can Santa do for you” He teased as he propped Jason on his knee.
Jason’s chest puffed up with pride at being called young man. Indeed he felt quite grown up as he had an important job to do today.
“Please Santa, I don’t need presents for myself. Instead I wish for a new daddy for mummy”
Daniel was stumped. Of all the strange requests from the kids, this one really takes the cake.
“Well..” he scratched his nose trying to think of an appropriate response then decided to buy some time by playing along.
“Hmmm that’s kind of vague...do you have anybody in mind?”
Jason’s eyes brightened at that and bobbed his head up and down”Yes, Yes I do.”
He reached into his jeans pocket and fished out a carefully folded piece of paper. Daniel was really amused. This boy actually came prepared and meant business!
He was intrigued. Who was in the picture? Perhaps some famous actor in the likes of Brad Pitt or Ben Affleck? At any rate, he thought it was really funny and had to feign a coughing fit to disguise his chortling.
He was going to have a secret laugh at Kathy’s expense every time he saw her for the next few months.
But as Jason unfolded the page, his jaw almost dropped. It wasn’t a picture of some famous actor, but a page torn from his company’s staff newsletter. On it, was a candid picture of Kathy and himself taken in his office. He had coffee mug in his hand while Kathy was showing him something on his computer screen.
Jason, oblivious to Santa’s shock explained “Santa, this is my mummy’s boss. He seems really nice. If he can be our new daddy, mummy wouldn’t have to work so hard. In school, my friends’ mummies take care of the family while their daddys work. Mummy has to do both. How I wish I could grow up faster so she doesn’t have to work so hard! ”
Recovering from his shock, Daniel took a deep breath and asked
“But how do you know he is nice just from the picture ?”
“Mummy always tells me he’s a very good boss. “ Jason paused , then pointed at the coffee mug in the picture and shrugged ”And most importantly, he drinks coffee instead of beer. This means he won’t beat mummy up ”
Daniel felt his blood run cold at that last innocent statement . He glanced up at Kathy who was now across the room. He had known Kathy was widowed, but had no idea that she was a victim of spousal abuse. He also felt for the boy. He couldn’t imagine how helpless Jason must have felt seeing his mum being hurt by his father.
At this moment, Kathy happened to look his way. Their eyes met briefly. He quickly dropped his gaze.
“Did he...hurt you?”he asked tentatively, almost afraid to know.
Jason sniffled a little. “No Sir, mummy always shielded me and made sure I was safe. Daddy was OK when he didn’t drink. But when he did, he became this scary big red monster.”
Daniel grappled for something comforting to say but his mind came up blank. Then he suddenly remembered an old padre who used to listen to his confessions as a boy and how he had always felt better after speaking to him. What would the padre say to Jason at this moment?
Then the words came almost naturally
“Jason, sometimes bad stuff happens to good people. We may not understand it at that moment but always remember, our heavenly Father loves us and is watching over us.
Sometimes He allows stuff to happen so that we can grow stronger. Sometimes we do not get exactly what we ask for. That’s because He knows each of us so well and only wants to give us the best. We may not always know what is the best for ourselves.
Now, I’m not God so I cannot make a new daddy for you, but we can pray together that God will provide. For now, young man, the best gift you can get for your mum is to study hard and grow up to be a good man so that you can take care of her.”
Jason seemed a little comforted at these words. They bent their heads together to offer up a heartfelt prayer.
Daniel ruffled Jason’s hair when they were done praying. What a gem of a boy, he thought. Strangely, as he was saying those words to Jason, somehow he felt ministered to as well. It was as if he had also needed to hear those words from someone.
“Thanks Santa! I’ll work hard and make it to your Nice list every year, you’ll see!”
“I’ll hold you to it! “ Daniel grinned, glad that Jason had cheered up somewhat.
Jason made him promise not to tell mummy what they had just discussed and they fist pumped on that.