Mine were a little different than normal, but still very nice, but this is not a post about my loot from Santa or exactly how much junk food is in the house at present. Instead, this is a true story that was shared with me by Lady's cousin Chip who is a NICU nurse, as we spent time with their family on Christmas Day.
***"I saw the real Santa Claus last night," she said to me, and I smiled patiently, thinking she was teasing.
"No, I really did. He's been the Santa for the Downtown Christmas Parade and for the Children's Hospital for the last 30 years."
"That's commitment," I remarked. "He must be a really nice man."
"You have no idea. He comes into the hospital every year the week before Christmas and visits every single child. Every ward, every floor, from Pediatric Oncology to my tiny sick babies. He takes a picture with each one, and comes back on Christmas eve to deliver the developed pictures to every little boy and girl, or Mom, who's still there. The kids who get out get them mailed to them."
"Was he by last night?"
"Yes- He went to every single bed space and incubator. There was a little girl there about 5 years old who we had let in because it was Christmas Eve. We told her Mom he was coming and she said the little girl was kind of afraid of Santa but she hoped he could get some nice pictures of the little girl because she wouldn't sit on the lap of the Santa at the mall. Her baby boy was really sick too, so she liked the idea of having their picture taken together by our Santa."
I was well hooked on the story by this time and I asked,
"How did she react to our Santa?"
"Well, she heard his bells coming down the hall and she ran to peek out every minute or so, and come back to tell her Mommy 'Mommy, Mommy he's coming!' When he came in, he doesn't come in like most Santas with the big "Ho Ho Ho!" He's very meek and mild because most of our kids are so sick, so she sidled up to him and he showed her a book he had made about 15 years ago that shows the plane he uses when there's no snow, and the special entrance he uses to get into the hospital."
"That's amazing," I could feel myself smiling. "Did she sit up in his lap?"
"She sure did! Her Mom was so happy she was snapping away with her own camera trying to capture it. Then Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas, but she only said that she wanted him to see her brother because he was really sick."
"Did Santa go over to the incubator?"
"Yup- He's got the poses down to a science. If the baby can be taken out he'll take them up in his arms or just cradle them. If they can't come out of the isolette, he'll peer in at them, it's so sweet."
"What a beautiful story...what did the little girl do then?"
"She was really proud of the baby, and Santa's daughter happens to be our pediatric cardiologist who makes her rounds with him. Santa carries a bear on his mailbag every year and he chooses one child in the hospital to give it to. He tried to give it to the little girl, but she wouldn't take it at first because she was afraid he might be lonely for it."
"I can't believe there are still people like that in the world," I said, feeling the need to track down some tissues rather quickly.
"Tell me about it." Chip answered. "His daughter just looked at him with such admiration- I mean everyone looks at their Dad with admiration- but this was just *awe* at what a good person he was."
"It must be a calling."
"It must be. Do you know what else he did last night?" Chip's eyes began to fill as she brought it up.
"There can't be more..."
"Yeah, there is. We have one baby who we've had for months, and whose parents don't come to visit him. Santa asked why he was all alone. We explained that he didn't get visitors- no one would have known any better if he had just passed that baby by or had just leaned in over the incubator for a quick picture- but Santa asked for a rocking chair instead. He took that baby boy out, with his ventilator tubes, and rocked him to sleep. Everybody cried."
"I bet they did!" I could barely get the words out. "I guess you really did see the Real Santa Claus last night."