It was four days before Christmas and the town sat still, as if Old Man Winter had forgotten the snow everyone was wishing for.
Grandpa and I worked at the department store where he asked kids what they wanted for Christmas while I distributed candy canes and small presents. Grandpa’s beard was real, bushy and full. Some of the kids who tugged it were quite surprised. And when he ho ho-ed, his stomach shook. Grandpa was Santa Claus, no question.
Most of the lap-sitters were under ten. They were pretty much alike, asking for bikes, dolls, radios and games. But one little girl was different. Her mother led her up, and Grandpa hoisted her onto his lap. Her name was Tina. She was blind.
“What do you want for Christmas, Tina?” Grandpa asked.
“Snow,” she answered shyly.
Grandpa smiled. His eyes twinkled. “Well, I’ll see what I can do about that. But how about something just for you? Something special?”
Tina hesitated and whispered in Grandpa’s ear. I saw a smile creep over his face.
“Sure, Tina,” was all he said.
He took her hands in his and placed them on his cheeks. His eyes drifted shut, and he sat there smiling as the girl began to sculpt his face with her fingers. She paused here and there to linger, paying close attention to every wrinkle and whisker. Her fingers seemed to be memorizing the laugh lines under Grandpa’s eyes and at the corners of his mouth. She stroked his beard and rolled its wiry ringlets between her thumb and forefingers. When she finished, she paused to rest her palms on Grandpa’s shoulders.
He opened his eyes. They were twinkling.
Suddenly her arms flew out, encircling Grandpa’s neck in a crushing hug. “Oh, Santa,” she cried. “You look just like I knew you did. You’re perfect, just perfect.”
As Tina’s mother lifted her down from his lap, Grandpa smiled, then blinked, and a tear rolled down his cheek.
That night when my grandmother came to pick us up, I watched her help Grandpa transfer into his wheelchair and position his limp legs on the footrests.
“So, Santa,” she winked, “how was your day?”
He looked up at me and pressed his lips together. Then he looked at Grandma, cleared his throat, and said with a tiny smile, “Sweetheart, it was perfect, just perfect.”
Outside it began to snow.
"The Right Touch" from Chicken Soup for the Soul The Book of Christmas Virtues ©2005 by Steve Burt
HCI, The Life Issues Publisher, www.hcibooks.com