It was December and I wasn't exactly a happy camper when the grade card came home for my fourteen year old nephew. He had been staying with us for a couple of years now as his biological parents failed in the discipline department and left this one to run amuck. He was given up to us to keep him alive and out of the gangs which is where he was heading. I was the drill sergeant of truth and his last chance at creating a normal life for himself. He was wise enough I think to see it.
He lived in my house, ate my food and was under my tutelage for the lessons he would need to live in this society. He was my son and I referred to him as such and still do.
Every child learns to work his parents as well as the system and this one was no exception. His failing Math grades told me that "I" had failed. I must have become complacent. I knew I had to turn it around, but how.
I couldn't lose sight of the fact that the holidays were upon us either, so for now I focused on the six year old. I knew that this was probably the last year to really enjoy Christmas as a child sees Christmas. Next year his focus will be more on video games than the magic of the holiday. So I decided to take him to see Santa at the local mall.
I asked the older boy if he would like to come along to sort of keep me company while we waited to see the great bearded one. His teenage mind went to work on the invitation.
"Hmmm," he thought to himself, "The Mall, hot chicks and at the very least dinner in the food court. I might even get the old man to kick down with a new pair of sneakers!"
"Sure! I'll come along."
I was happy not to have to stand in line alone. Mom didn't do this part very well because she wears hearing aids and sometimes they weren't a tremendous help. So we went and waited in line. The littlest one was craning his neck to see Santa while the older one was checking out other scenery. I was just trying to figure out how to get through the evening intact. What was I thinking? I would have given anything to have those hearing aids that I could just turn off.
This shopping mall had built a nice little house that you went in to. There you would sit on Santa's lap and have your picture taken with Santa, using only their cameras of course. It was a very nice venue though and it did seem to give you a more private moment with Santa and I did want to make this one more memorable. And memorable it turned out to be.
Now I should mention here that the older child was of very slight build and a bit small for his age. He looked much younger than he was and cute by the standards of most girls, including the one that spoke to him in line. She was popular and went to the high school too. She was a sophomore though and he a lowly freshman. So his aspirations of love and fame were well underway. She had noticed him and actually spoke to him. "Yes, Christmas was looking better!" he thought to himself.
Our time came and the boys entered Santa's workshop. The older one taking one last look at the scenery and obviously exciting him to the point where the smile could not be knocked off of his face with a sledge hammer. She actually waved at him! Luckily for me, he was off his game. I closed the door and the three of us took a moment for our eyes to adjust. The little one had no trouble at all finding Santa's lap.
What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Santa went for the two for one shot! He held his hand out for the older on to sit on his other knee. The kid panicked, looked around and saw there was no way out. He didn't want to spoil the moment for the younger child either, so he reluctantly walked over and sat down on Santa's other knee while I maneuvered myself out of the way towards the exit and where the older one could see me but not the younger one. He was losing his smile fast. I quietly cleared my throat, he looked up at me. I grinned and he smiled and FLASH! A picture was made. I was given a little card with a number on it. I went outside where a cute little elf took my order for prints while the boys told Santa what they wanted for Christmas. I tendered my Visa feeling as if God had made me King of Christmas!
The boys joined me as I finished the transaction. The prints would be mailed to me the following week. I looked at them and said the only thing that would get the older ones mind off of what just happened. "I'm starving, are you guys hungry?"
The week went by before we knew it and I had my delightful picture of my two boys sitting on Santa's lap with the beautiful frame embedded in the picture with the date, "Christmas 1999".
I placed the portrait on my flatbed scanner and scanned it in. Now, Photoshop was fairly new and I was just learning but with very little effort I produced a picture of Santa with a single solitary young boy sitting on Santa's lap. I quickly printed one on a full sheet of peel and stick label paper. I took it off the printer just as the older one came into my study.
"What's that?" he asked getting a quick glimpse as I snatched it off of the printer.
And with one fluid motion peeled the backing off of it and stuck it to his chest as I remarked, "Your math grade will be nothing less than a "B" or I will put one of these babies on every locker on campus! You won't know what sex is until you're too old to have it!"
I quietly sat back down in my chair smug and smiling as I watched his expression turn into one of complete horror as he peeled it off and noticed that he was the only one sitting on Santa's lap. "You wouldn't!" he said.
"Have I EVER said that I would do anything that I didn't?" I asked him smiling.
He made mention of my questionable parentage but never achieved less than a "B" throughout his remaining years in high school.
Oh how I love Christmas!