Thanks to Mave for reminding me of this.
The year was, oh, I’m going to say around 1964. Mother, Mavis and I were Christmas shopping at a big plaza-style shopping center in Waukegan, Illinois (before the days of malls, all shopping centers were plazas, where you had to go outside to go from store to store). We went into a big department store (Goldblatt’s?), and came upon an aisle full of dolls.
As we slow-walked down the aisle, Mother gave us some time to sit on the floor and look at the dolls. I was entranced. I found a bunch of beautiful specimens and faded into my fantasy world.
When I came to my senses and looked around, Mother and Mavis were gone.
I walked to the end of the aisle. No Mommy. I ran to the other end. Nothing. I was all alone. I started to panic — quietly at first…you know, like whimpering and softly calling out for my mom. Then, as I took off running down aisle after aisle, the quiet panic morphed into uncontrollable weeping. I was certain that they had just forgotten all about me and gone home. (Years later, Mother told me she was actually nearby, frantically scanning the aisles with Mavis in tow, trying to find me and apparently missing me by inches.)
Anyway, I don’t recall exactly how or when I got outside in the cold, but I remember crouching down against a brick wall on the walkway, bawling my eyes out with my hands over my face. Then, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up —
It was Santa Claus.
I remember him saying something like, “What’s the matter, sweetheart?” I told him, in that jagged little hiccuppy crying voice that kids do, that I couldn’t find my mommy and my sister and I thought they went home without me. I wailed. (Poor Santa.)
He scooped me up into his arms, and I remember people stopping by, talking to me, consoling me, telling me don’t worry, Santa would find my mommy. He reached into his coat pocket and produced a big red and white candy cane, which probably made me feel better. After what seemed like an eternity (although it was likely just a few minutes), I saw them: Mother and Mavis, almost running towards us.
Mother took me from Santa, thanked him profusely (I’m sure she was embarrassed), and hugged me. I remember her scolding me when I told her I thought she and Mavis had gone home (“I would never, ever leave without you!”). Mavis was no worse for the wear, because she got a big candy cane out of the bargain, too.
Happy Wednesday — only 21 shopping days left!