Storytelling with Santa

Belinda Howard Smith

An elderly lady and Santa grasp hands and share a conversation.

Mother was in the twilight season of life. We borrowed a wheelchair to “stroll” the large shopping mall to observe the magical Christmas decorations in the two-level atrium and department store displays. Larger-than-life Christmas trees reached high toward hanging wreaths of greens wrapped in red ribbons, shiny metallic balls and tied with an enormous red bow. Christmas carols danced in the air as we walked in awe of this winter wonderland.

A small glimpse of a Christmas tree with balls of gold, white, and red. In the background is an escalator.

It was early December, children were still in school, and it seemed we had the mall to ourselves. From the upper level we could see below us ladies dressed as elves scurrying as they prepared an area for Santa to sit and listen to the individual requests, from the children who would soon arrive for a special moment with Santa. A camera would capture each memory with an instant photograph to take home as a reminder of this delightful visit with Santa Claus.

“Mother, there’s Santa. Would you like to go see him?”
“Sure!” she replied.

We headed to the elevator and in minutes Santa and Sarah’s eyes met. I could see by the twinkle in his eye Santa wanted to chat with Mother. They talked for what seemed the longest, out of my hearing, and I was quite curious. Mother didn’t say what they discussed. However, I had a feeling it might have been about a story she told me about a Christmas when she was a young girl. Perhaps she was asking Santa if he remembered bringing her the doll.

A mall Santa Claus waving. A department store with clothes racks in the background.

Mother wasn’t a big talker. She was a quiet, reserved woman of Southern upbringing. Meaning, it is the culture of women in the South. However, as this “Southern belle” began to experience dementia, rather, “old timer disease” as she might say, began to tell childhood stories. Her repertoire of stories was short, however if one counted how many times they were repeated, there were several.

As told by Sarah:
“When I was five or six years old Daddy had gone to Calhoun City to buy baby dolls for my sisters and me for Christmas. He did not realize that one of the dolls did not cry. Dolls that cry were rare at that time. Mama didn’t know who was going to get the doll that didn’t cry.

I was trying to be really good that night and was planning to go to bed as soon as supper was over and had already taken off my shoes. The Kitchen was cold at night. The wind blew and rattled the window pane. Mama said, ‘Uh oh, Santa sees you without your shoes Sarah.’ (That was how Mama decided who would get the doll that didn’t cry.)

My sisters were all excited about their crying dolls. ‘My baby is better than theirs. Mine doesn’t cry all of the time!’ I announced to the family.”

Knowing this story, as I printed the photo of her with Santa for her Christmas cards that year, the caption read, “Do you remember when you gave me the doll that didn’t cry?”

Elderly woman talking to Santa Claus

Our stories are meaningful, no matter how short, and how many times it is repeated. This story teaches me something about my mother’s personality. Your stories are important. It’s challenging to turn off the distractions, sit quietly and write.

BellaVida Bed and Breakfast hosts writer’s workshops, scrapbook retreats, and photo journaling opportunities. Some guests enjoy their own private getaway for quiet solitude.

Our desire is to provide a meaningful experience for guests to connect, create, and celebrate because as our name says, life is beautiful!


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