Hatcher’s Stocking I

She was quiet. Not in a shy kind of way, a burdened, heavy-hearted way. I joined her and the children to tag the Warmie stuffed animals. We placed adhesive stickers on the back of a beautifully printed laminate prayer card, then attached them to the tag of the Warmies. I didn’t know anyone but Brittney, who had invited us, so I just said, “How can I help?” when I first made contact with her. The sweet children to either side of her, I assumed, were her own. They were diligently working alongside her. We worked together quietly.

It wasn’t long before Santa called over to me. He needed a picture taken, so I moved over to him to help. Molly B. was her name, she said. Santa told me endearing facts he had just learned about her. She was thrilled with the attention he was giving her. “ I guess I’m a little chatty,” she said, “I don’t talk to anyone all day but my dog!” She said it in a laughing, jovial voice, not someone looking for pity. During that conversation, she told me 2 or 3 times how she had been married for 61 years and 4 months! The 4 months were very intentional; it was important for her to remember every day she had with her late husband. I wondered to myself how someone just 5 months ago widowed could be so joyful. She was inspirational, for sure.

The evening went by fast between taking pictures of families with Santa and helping stuff stockings. The stockings were high quality, just like the interactive toys going inside. This was a well-thought-out plan. Even the leather monogrammed tags were gorgeous!

Santa called to me again; it was picture time. As I followed him, I realized it was the quiet lady and her two children who I was photographing. She was in a hurry to get a picture outside by the beautifully adorned cross. She knew the event was about to begin with Blake and Brittney making announcements, and she was adamant to get this picture with Santa. She was much more engaging with this task than when I met her stuffing stockings, I could tell this was important to her.

When Santa and I and the lady whose name tag said Juliana met at the cross we were waiting for her children to join us. She explained she wanted to send a picture to her husband. He was just called away from them 10 days ago. He was going back to be on the submarine, she said; he’s in flight now; I can’t remember where she said he was going. It all seemed to happen in slow motion, and she told me about her best friend being gone this time of year. Her eyes were welled up with tears; she was trying hard to be very strong and hold it together. Her friends had come over recently, bringing her food and spending time with her as she shared the sheer sadness she and her kids were feeling.

It all made sense to me now. Just then, her children arrived, so well-mannered. I took several shots of them with Santa standing in front of the greenery cross adorned with red flowers. Then Santa said,” What’s your husband’s name?”, she said, “ Steve”. “Let’s do a video and send it to Steve,” Santa said. She perked up, and her excitement showed. I began the video, and Santa took the lead, talking to Steve and then turning it over to Juliana and the kids. The daughter ended it with “ I love you, Daddy!”. Wow.
I texted her the video, and then she said, “Can we pray?” Santa said sure and was about to pray, and she seemed taken back. I think she was going to pray, and then she asked him are you a praying man? “I know what the reason for the season truly is,” he said. I think at that moment, she realized this is no regular Santa. Sure, his character was a jolly HoHoHo Santa, but his purpose was deeper, and she could sense that. Santa and I and the three of them bowed our heads as he prayed, asking for blessings over Steve and over this precious family. It was a special moment for me to witness it all unfold.

We hugged her and returned back inside. There were still so many more memories that were about to unfold.

Merry Christmas!

Mrs. Claus

Read Hatcher's Stocking II