Thursday, December 22, 2016

While Waiting In Line to See Santa

We leave the house at the appointed moment, arrive at University Village precisely when we planned. The time is twenty minutes before 10:00. It is a blue sky day in Seattle, almost balmy. Lulu and I claim the family's place in the Santa line, while Caroline drives on in a search for a parking space. The line already stretches from Santa's small wooden house down the covered sidewalk to Sephora. Miraculously, or perhaps because everything about this morning falls into place in a closely tied schedule, there is a parking space within feet from where we stand. Charlie elects to wait in the car, out of the fray, but has forgotten his phone, and in any case, his phone's battery is probably in need of charging. Charlie commandeers his mom's iPhone. 
Caroline joins Lulu and me and quickly counts twelve families ahead of us. Santa's helper greets our threesome, predicts it will be close to an hour before we enter Santa's little house. 
"An hour of boredom." says a little Asian girl in front of us. She is perhaps six years old and stands with her mother and two younger sisters. All three siblings wear down hoodies, frothy tulle skirts and  Mary Jane shoes.
Caroline and the little girls' mother share insights about this annual Santa photo trek. 
Caroline says, "My kids have gotten to the surly age. But they are here."
The Asian mom says, "Mine love to dress in identical clothes. I save these tulle skirts for occasions like this. Bribery."
Caroline says, "You do get points today for their outfits."
The parents are patient waiters-in-line. Their kids are alternately quiet and expectant, or running up and down the sidewalk, or picking leaves off the potted plants, or throwing fits. 
Lulu is quickly bored. Caroline knew this moment was coming, and planned a side trip across the parking lot to Starbucks for hot chocolate. I hold our place in line, knowing she'll bring me a single shot espresso and listen in on the directives the six year old in tulle gives her mom, "I will peek. I will have an iPhone. I will have an iPhone. I will. A good one." Such is the privilege of tulle.
I notice that without exception, parents and grandparents exit the little Santa house beaming. Their smiles are wide, the moment happy. 
Caroline and Lulu return from Starbucks. Caroline estimates we will see Santa for the coveted photo within our time constraints, but only if Santa does not need a bladder break. It is 10:20 and there are only four families ahead of us. 
Babies throughout the line begin to cry. Small children are now being held, and a very few are still running, bent on a possible fall and split lips. Caroline continues to calculate our wait.
Charlie emerges at last from the car as beaming parents exit Santa's house with three tiny children in tow. 
And then, suddenly it seems, we are second in line. The mom of the three tulle sisters is applying fresh lip balm to their lips in preparation for their photograph. Santa's door opens. My two grandchildren watch silently as the three tulle skirt march up the steps for an audience with Santa.  
"We're next," says Lulu. We are on schedule. May Santa's bladder hold up.
Caroline says from experience, "Babies and toddlers move quickly. Five to seven year olds are the sweet spot. They like to talk with Santa and slow things down." I wonder about the tulle sisters.
But only fleetingly, because Santa's doors opens again. For us. It is my grand children's turn to stand on either side of Santa and smile big for the photographer. And have a small chat with Santa, answer his questions about what they would like him to bring them on Christmas Eve. They smile broadly. They are perfect.
The morning's timing is also perfect. Caroline and I are beaming as we depart Santa's house, just like all the other parents and grandparents. I know my eldest daughter is beaming because the photo of her two children with Santa is beautiful, and she is beaming because we have twelve minutes to get to our next appointment at Northgate. So far, the day is a success.

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