Rebecca and Heather were sitting in Rebecca’s room talking about their families’ plans for Christmas when there was a knock on the door.
“Who is it?” Rebeca shouted.
“Pip,” came the response. “I want to show you something.”
“Well, you better come in then.”
Pip opened the door and stood there wearing his brand-new Santa suit and a wide grin. Because when a gnome grins at you, you must grin back (if you’re human, that is.) the girls grinned back. In fact, they both burst out laughing”
“Pip, I think you are the cutest Santa I have ever seen.” Rebecca said. “But I thought you magicals didn’t do Christmas.”
“We don’t,” he replied. “As you know we are more into the Winter Equinox. But I thought my favorite human would get a kick out of seeing old Pip dressed up like Santa.”
“You thought right. Has Grandma seen you like this?”
“No, she has not. You were my first stop.”
“We just have to show her. I think she is having coffee with Heather’s mom.”
Indeed, they found Naomi and Christi sharing a cup of coffee in front of the fireplace in Naomi’s old house.
“Well, look at you,” Naomi exclaimed as she twirled her finger, indicating to Pip that he should turn and show her the whole outfit.
“What do you think?” Pip asked as he slowly turned. “I originally did it because I thought Rebecca would get a kick out of it. Plus, the more I learn about this Santa Clause myth, the more I like him. Too bad he’s not real I thought. What’s not to like? A jolly fat guy who makes people happy. I thought, ‘He’s just like me.’ So, I went to Nolan the elf tailor and just like that, here I am—Santa. It’s very festive, really. I just might wear it all the time, though I’d have to put some curl in the toes of these boots.” He took a breath as if to continue to prattle on, but he noticed Christi looking as if she was going to explode if she didn’t get to say something. So, he looked at her and said, “Was there something?”
“Well . . . Every year at Social Services we have a Christmas party for all the poor kids we provide services to. Most of those kids don’t have much of a Christmas, so we take donations and buy them all a little something. There’s music and games. My boss usually plays Santa, but he’s kind of skinny, and he has to wear a fake beard. I was wondering . . .
Pip held up his hand to stop her and said, “Say no more. You had me at ‘party’. I just have one condition. Let me supply the gifts.”
Christi stared at Pip for a moment, clearly taken aback by his last statement. “Wow . . . I didn’t expect . . . That’s really generous. Thank you.”
Pip held his hand up again. “No problem. There are advantages to having lots of magical friends. I’ll have a few words with Merlin and I think we can give these kids a Christmas they won’t soon forget.”
The last Saturday before Christmas was a beautiful Minnesota winter day—bright and sunny, with temperatures in the 20’s and no wind. There had been enough snow already, so it was certain there would be a white Christmas.
Pip wondered at the human fascination with having snow on Christmas. But with his usual live-and-let-live attitude thought, “Humans, what are you going to do?” He arrived at the county Social Services with Naomi and Rebecca and a special bag he had gotten from Merlin. The parking lot was full, and Rebecca wondered if there were enough gifts in that little bag for all the children that would be at the party.
When she asked Pip about it all he would say was. “Don’t worry about it. Leave it to me.” He had been quite cagey about the bag really. He hadn’t let it out of his sight since he got it from Merlin, nor would he let anyone see inside it. “That would spoil the surprise.” He said.
Christi met them at the door. “I’m so glad you’re here. I was starting to worry. The natives are getting kind of restless in there.”
Pip gave her his best grin and said, “Haven’t you ever heard of being fashionably late?”
Since no human can resist a gnome’s grin, Christy smiled back and said, “Ok, you wait here, and I’ll go announce you.”
The trio waited in the hall as Christy made her way to the front of the noisy room and shouted, “If I could have everyone’s attention please!”
The room quieted down—even the Christmas music that had been playing quietly.
“I hope everyone is having a good time,” she began. “Our guest of honor is finally here, so without further ado I give you that jolly old elf himself—Santa Clause.”
“Santa Clause is Coming to Town” began to play and Pip pranced through the door and across the room; shaking hands and waving along the way. Naomi chuckled at the sight, thinking he looked like he was running for president. Christi had borrowed a small chair from the grade school and set it beside the treat table in the front of the room for Pip to sit on. But when he got to it he used it as a stair and climbed right up on the table—snagging a couple of cookies along the way.
He waved the cookies in the air and shouted, “Merry Christmas, everybody!”
“Merry Christmas,” the kids all shouted back—all except one dark haired boy in the back.
Pip studied the boy while he slowly chewed his cookies. The boy leaned against the back wall with his arm crossed and a frown on his face. He appeared to be about ten. He was too far away for Pip’s grin magic to work. But Pip just couldn’t resist a challenge.
“Ok everyone, you know why I’m here. So, let’s get started. Why don’t you form a line right over here—starting with you.” He pointed to the frowning boy.
For a moment the boy looked like he was thinking of bolting out the door. But everyone was looking at him and he slowly made his way to the front of the room. When he reached Pip, who was now sitting on the edge of the table, Pip extended his hand and the boy took it.
“What’s your name?” Pip asked as he vigorously shook hands.
“Danny O’Neal,” the boy answered.
“Danny O’Neal,” Pip repeated in perfect Irish brogue, but serious facial expression—he was saving his grin for later. “I’ve known a few O’Neals in my time—good people. Did you know that O’Neals are descended from ancient Irish kings?”
Danny kept his sour expression and said, “No we aren’t. You just made that up. You’re not Santa either. There is no Santa.”
The room fell quiet as Pip contemplated this latest development. “No Santa, eh?” he asked—sounding a lot like Larry from The Three Stooges. “You know what you get if you don’t believe in Santa, don’t you?” Pip reached in his bag and pulled out a black lump and held it up. “A lump of coal!” some of the kids laughed.
Pip moved to hand the coal to Danny but stopped short. Danny stood with his arms crossed again and looked about ready to bolt. “I’ll tell you what, Danny boyo.” Pip had reverted to his Irish brogue. “I’ll make you a bet. I’ll bet I can make you believe in Santa. If I win you have to say you believe. If you win . . .”
“If I win, you have to leave. Then they can hand out their lame gifts like they usually do, and we can all go home.”
“Oh, you are a tough one, Danny boyo. It’s a bet.” Pip extended his hand and they shook on it. “Now tell me, Danny, what gift do you want from Santa? Don’t be shy.”
“Ok, you faker, I want a bike. A mountain bike, with fifteen speeds. Not some cheap piece of crap either—a nice one.”
“Well, well, a nice one you say. We’ll just have to see what Santa has in his bag.”
Pip put the coal back in the bag and began rummaging around as if the bag was full of gifts. Finally, he said, “Give me a hand with this, will you Danny? Just grab the bottom of the bag there.”
Danny did as he asked, and Pip pulled. The bag stretched and slowly a bike began to emerge, and finally popped free. Pip made a show of wiping his brow. “That was a tough one.”
Danny, for his part, was totally amazed. He looked at exactly the bike he had described in total disbelief.
“That’s a pretty nice bike, if I do say so myself.” Pip reached in his bag again and pulled out a bike lock. “Better lock it up to keep it safe. Which reminds me.” He reached in his bag a third time and produced a bike helmet. “Better keep you safe too.”
Tears started to well up in Danny’s eyes, so Pip decided it was time for the grin. He broke out his biggest grin and Danny responded in kind.
“What do you say now, Danny boyo?”
Danny looked him in the eye and said, “I believe.” The crowd cheered.
Pip leaned in and said quietly in Danny’s ear, “I know you want to go out to the parking lot and try out your new bike, but I could really use your help.”
“Ok,” Danny replied.
“Also, I was right about the O’Neals. Look it up. You’re from good stock, kid.”
So, Pip and Danny started handing out gifts to everyone—everything from dolls to video game consoles to hockey equipment. Finally, the last child came forward. She appeared to be about three and very shy. Her mother was with her and she peered cautiously from behind her mother’s leg. Pip jumped down from the table and looked her in the eye.
“You’re not scared of Santa, are you?” He asked with a grin.
She giggled and said “No.” Suddenly she was all dimples and curls.
“What’s your name?”
“Barbara, I am very pleased to meet you.” Pip said as they shook hands. What would you like from Santa?”
“A fairy to play with.”
“A fairy doll?”
“No, a real fairy. Fairies are real, aren’t they?”
“Well. . . Of course they’re real. But you can’t own one. They are people like you and me. Maybe I could ask one to play with you. Would you like that?”
Barbara nodded ‘yes’.
“I’ll be right back,” Pip said as he crawled into the bag and disappeared. Unbeknownst to Barbara and her mom, he re-emerged in a room back in the castle of New Camelot where Merlin the wizard had been conjuring up gifts and passing them on to Pip through the portal in his magic bag.
“Did you hear?” he asked the wizard.
“Most unusual, but acceptable I suppose—if I can find a volunteer.”
A moment later, Pip crawled back out of the bag at the party. He jumped down from the table and walked up to Barbara. “Now you must promise to be nice to her and let her leave when she wants to.”
Pip opened the bag and called in, “You can come out now.”
A fairy flew out, about the size of a humming bird and glowing. She flew around the room until everyone stopped what they were doing and watched her. Then she flew up to Barbara—hovering about six inches in front of her face. “You must be Barbara.” Barbara nodded. “I am Colleen and very pleased to make your acquaintance. How about we go find a place to play?”
Barbara clapped and squealed “Ok”; hugged Pip and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you, Santa,” she said before running off to play in the hall. Her mother, whose mouth was hanging open in amazement, mumbled a thank you to Pip and ran off after her daughter.
Pip looked around at all the happy children; playing with their new toys, turned to Danny and said, “My work here is done. Thanks for your help. Why don’t you go out the parking lot and try your new bike?”
With that he climbed back onto the table, waved to the crowd and shouted, “Merry Christmas to all”. He began to fade from view so that when he got to “and to all a good night,” he was completely invisible. You could have heard a pin drop in that room full of kids.
In the back of the room Naomi turned to Rebecca and whispered, “He’s really done it now.”