Ovation: Signing Mall Santas.
My mother, like most, tried valiantly to have photos of my siblings and I taken in the lap of Santa Claus. She would dress us in our nicest Christmas clothes, we would wait excitedly in line for our turn to sit on his lap and, once we were there, we would look deeply into his eyes and scream bloody murder. [Seriously … Parenting 101 teaches us to instill from birth a “don’t talk to strangers” mentality in our children and then, come November, we plop them on the lap of an oddly dressed-stranger and ask them to spill their guts about their Christmas hopes and dreams? It’s cruel and confusing, no?] Sometimes this activity needed to occur as early as October in order for photographs to be developed in time for the holidays. Fortunately, this family tradition did not last long.
One evening, early last month, I went shopping at the mall. In my ongoing yet fruitless attempt to finish my Christmas shopping before the “official” beginning of the season, I often stop at a department store on my way home from the office or make a special trip when I have a particularly good gift idea. While many shoppers prefer to wait for Black Friday sales to find bargains, I prefer to shop when the shelves are full, sizes are available, clothes are neatly folded and sales staff is not completely exhausted. On this particular night, the mall was relatively empty.
And then we saw Santa Claus.
Sad, lonely Santa Claus … sitting quietly, in his beautiful and clean new suit in the middle of a fresh and newly constructed holiday display nestled in a winter wonderland between the food court and JC Penney’s. Both this most handsome and friendly Santa Claus and his elf photographer, while waiting patiently for a child to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they want for Christmas so the moment might be captured on file, smiled and waved as we passed. There were no children to be seen. They were bored out of their minds. After all, it was only the first week of November. Mothers
Last Wednesday, the Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Virginia, hosted a visit from a special Santa Claus … one fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). The mall’s Signing Santa Day celebration brought holiday cheer to local children with hearing impairments and gave them a chance to share their Christmas wishes with Santa in a special way.
“If we had gone to visit a regular Santa Claus, he would probably only hear about half of what Santa was saying,” one mother explained. “It’s nice that he sees the sign and hears Santa speaking at the same time.”
As much as the children must have enjoyed this opportunity, I’d wager that their parents were even more thrilled. The fact that they knew for certain that their young ones were understanding everything that Santa had to say to them must have been extremely heartwarming.
I imagine that, by now, the Santa that I saw in the mall that quiet night last month is no longer wearing a neatly pressed suit with sparkling white trim and shiny black boots and that the holiday display in which he sits is showing signs of wear, but he’s heard hundreds of wishes, been photographed dozens of times and made countless toddlers scream.
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