You were wondering what Santa Claus does in the off months? I now know: There he was, yesterday, at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, in shorts and a baseball shirt printed with NORTH POLE and CLAUS on the back. Red shorts, red shoes, red socks. He looked almost as ridiculous as his wife, who was dressed in a red and white striped shirt and carrying a big bag that said Mrs. Claus and a sour expression when anyone looked their way, which was constant.
“Lady,” I wanted to say. “You’re asking for it.”
I gave it to her. How couldn’t I? “Hey, Sophie, look, there’s Santa!” I called, getting his attention. Sophie was thrilled. Gave him a hug and a kiss and a big hello. I was satisifed, but — clearly risking Mrs. Claus’ ire — Santa offered a photo opp, pulling a red hat from his bag.
Hey, why not?
I don’t know if he was extra nice because of Sophie — what Santa doesn’t have a flock of kids with Down syndrome traipsing after him — or just because. I’ll take just because.
My present came this morning in the form of a young man walking alone on the beach. “Look at him,” I said to my sister. “D.S.?”
She looked. “Yeah, I guess. I didn’t notice. I don’t notice,” she said, pointedly. (Must all discussions revolve around your f-ed up kid?? was her unspoken comment — but she would have put it much more sweetly. She’s a social worker.)
“I never used to, either,” I said.
“Yeah, I know.”
The kid was maybe late teens, with a thick middle and a funny-shaped head. His parents were a few hundred paces ahead. His shirt was tucked neatly into his shorts, okay, maybe too neatly to be cool, but he looked good, and his mouth was open. (I used to think the expression mouth breather was so hilarious.)
He had a really sad look on his face, a familiar look, and I realized it had nothing to do with Sophie. He was just a pensive kid walking the beach, just like I always used to do before I got busy with love and a job and kids and all the love and job that goes with that.
Time to think = sadness, in my book. Always has. I don’t vacation well.
(Which is why I’m happy standing literally in a closet, listening to the waves, typing on a computer they’ve tucked away here off the dining room at the place we’re staying, hiding from everyone.)
Back to reality. Who knows what that kid’s reality is, but Im going to consider it a a good one. At least as good as mine. Probably better.