PETERSON (2)

A Reason to Lie
by Venetia Peterson

The escalators seemed to terrify my mother into hesitation as a line of shoppers passed us. I pulled her hand to move forward. I understood the rhythm: ka-clunk, step on and ride to the next floor. Mom pulled me back.

She said, “Believe…believe,” and then we were off with her trembling hand in mine.

After the fourth escalator we arrived at Santa’s Wonderland. Mom negotiated the aisles of fancy boxes up to the sign pointing to the North Pole and Santa’s gleaming throne.

She took off my coat saying, “He’ll ask you what you want for Christmas. And don’t forget to smile.”

Nudged forward, I understood the game. I knew what I dreamed of receiving wouldn’t be possible. I planned a lie. This was my first lie. My visit was a blur. I must have answered “dolly” because I did get a blond doll from Santa.

Years later, after my mom’s first stroke, we reminisced with the family photo album. Her memories were vivid about the past; it was the present that frustrated her.

She fingered my captured form on Santa’s lap.

“I love this photo of you,” she said.

“Do you remember the escalator and how long we stood there? “ I asked

She closed the album. “You were sitting on dad’s lap in that photo.”

“What?”

“I was afraid you’d recognize him. Dad was laid off that September. We were so worried about the bills. He insisted that we’d pull through and when he got that job at the store, the employee discount allowed you all a small toy that Christmas. Dad was a believer. Did you get what you wanted?”

I nodded, looking at the lying girl on Santa’s lap. My wish was to see my father more often.

PHOTO: A four year old Venetia with Santa at  the Eaton’s department store in Toronto, Canada.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When we are children we are self-absorbed in our worlds of wants, wonders, and willfulness. If we are lucky, the troubles in our community and family pass us by and only when we are adults and begin to care for our own families do we realize that those innocent years are very precious and fleeting.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Protecting a gang of sparrows from the neighbors yellow cat can be exhausting. In between, Venetia manages to write poetry and short stories in Toronto, Canada.