When I was small, I don’t remember my parents ever holding Santa over us at this time of year – there was never a sense that if we didn’t behave, the man in red wouldn’t deliver. Yes, he was magical and all-knowing, but it was all very positive – there was no threat of an empty stocking or a bag of coal. Perhaps my parents were just worried about what they’d do after December 24th if they relied on Santa to keep us on the straight and narrow. Whatever the reason, it’s something that has subconsciously carried through to adulthood for me, and I don’t rely (too much) on Santa to get my kids to behave – I just go for good old-fashioned begging most of the time.
My small boy asks me regularly if Santa can see everything, and I say “he’s magical – I guess maybe he can” and leave it at that. So when we had a chance conversation with a stranger about Santa’s list recently, I wondered where it was going to end up.
We were in Penneys, queuing to bring back some skirts that were far too big for the girls. It was day 28 since I’d bought them, so my last chance to get my money back. The kids had been reluctant to come out in the cold but I figured I needed the €18 more than Penneys, so off we went in our hats and scarves and warm winter jackets.
Except of course once we were in the busy shop, we were far too warm, and crankiness set in. There was a queue at the refund desk, and the kids were picking things up off shelves while we waited. I noticed that the small boy had a little tube of sweets with a fan on top of it. He was using the fan to cool down. Then he tried to bite the tube open, to get at the sweets. I swiped it out of his hand and put it up high, which made a small, hot cranky boy even crankier. Turning around to tell me off about it, he managed to knock a rail of socks onto the floor – you know, those metal spikes that hook onto display units in shops. “Matthew!” I said, and leaned down to pick it up.
There was an older woman in the queue just behind us, and she got there first. She picked it up and put it back on. “They’re very loose those things aren’t they, they fall off very easily,” she said to my small boy. He was still cross and didn’t reply.
“So you’re Matthew, am I right?” she said to him.
“Hey, how did you know my name?” he replied.
“Oh, I’m one of Santa’s helpers,” she explained.
“And what’s your name?” he asked.
“I’m Cathy,” she said. “Cathy Claus.”
He had a good stare at her then, trying to work it out. She had pewter coloured hair and enormous dark rimmed glasses, and I’m positive she had a noticeable twinkle in her eye – the small boy clearly thought so too.
“Cathy Claus,” he said, turning it over and trying it out for size. “Cathy Claus.”
“Yes and I know all the little boys and girls. You’re Matthew, aren’t you. And have you already sent your letter?”
“I have,” he said. “I’ve asked for an ice-cream maker.”
“That’s right – I remember now, Matthew who wanted an ice-cream maker. I did see your letter, and I’ve seen your name on Santa’s list – he knows he’s coming to your house on Christmas Eve.”
“Really? You saw my letter? That’s amazing!”
“I did. And you know what, when I’ve finished here, and after I’ve done my shop in Tesco, I’ll give Santa a call on my phone, just to say we were chatting. And to tell him what a good little boy you are for your mum.”
I could have hugged her.
We were at the top of the queue then, and a minute later, we were walking away with our refund.
“Bye Cathy Claus,” he said.
“Bye Matthew” said Cathy Claus, “You’re a great little boy.”
“Mum, did you hear that – she knew my name, and she’s Santa’s helper!” he said as we walked out of the shop.
I did hear it, and I hear it every day since – he’s still talking about her, and looking out for her everywhere we go. So thank you Cathy Claus, for saving the day, and adding some unexpected magic for one jaded mother and one spellbound little boy.