Smack in the centre of the first floor mezzanine of the mall sits Santa's throne surrounded by a fenced in Christmas tree garden. I note when Santa himself will be there and arrive back in time to see him set up. To the mall's credit, this guy is more than a reasonable facsimile, he looks very much like the real thing. He has a beam of a smile, bright blue eyes in a ruddy face and a curly white beard that looks amazingly real. One of the female elves is helping to adjust his cap in a manner that seems a tad familiar to me (maybe she is Mrs. Claus??) Two others are opening the tiny gate and rearranging the crate sized presents. I hear one of them say 'it's showtime' to the lady operating the computer. They all seem happy, perhaps even jolly. One begins tap dancing, her shoemaker shoes clicking sharply on the granite floor, her bright red tights flashing.
And here are the children, all ages, all sizes, forming an instant line-up. Some are wearing Christmas colours and fancy outfits while others are obviously staging an impromptu sitting with Santa.
The first two are refusals; they refuse to sit on Santa's lap or co-operate despite the mothers' and elves' fervent coaxing. One parent gives up and I try to catch her eye to smile in consolation but she embarrassingly moves away quickly. The other mother, after much discussion with the computer lady, gets the photo taken holding her unhappy baby while standing beside Santa. I can imagine what will be said about the resulting photo in the years to come.
In the mall the week before Christmas, I can see no one seems dispirited. I note smiles given and received. Amid the giant swags of evergreens and baseball sized holly berries, I deliberately fend off any thoughts of children in need or ill-treated. I only want glad thoughts as I go about my little shop.