On Sunday we took Anna to visit Santa at our local mall. Watching her chat with him and read her list reminded me of an earlier visit. It was Christmas 2008. She had been diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech about a month earlier and hadn’t begun therapy yet. It was a challenge, but both she and Santa were up to the challenge. Here’s how I described the visit in Chapter 35 of A Smile for Anna.
After Anna’s playtime, we walked past the movie theater to Centre Court, home of “Santa’s Workshop.” A snow covered cottage, surrounded by Christmas trees, stood halfway between a candy shop and a cell-phone store. Inside, Santa sat with his cadre of elves, greeting each child in turn.
We’d taken Anna to meet Santa last year, and she cried the whole time. Now she was a year older, and she was ready.
“So when it’s your turn, don’t forget to tell Santa what you want for Christmas,” I said.
Anna nodded but didn’t look up. She was in the zone and didn’t want to break focus.
“Why hello little girl, what’s your name?” Santa leaned over and lifted Anna onto her lap.
“Ma na es Anna.”
Santa paused and looked over to us.
“Her name’s Anna,” Julia said.
“Anna Ohzahbee.” Anna added.
“Well, Anna, do you know what you want for Christmas?”
Santa smiled. “What else?”
Julia noticed the puzzled look on Santa’s face. “Dolls.”
“Oh, like a baby doll you can feed and change.”
Anna nodded again. “Es.”
“Of course, Anna, that sounds like fun. What else?”
More puzzlement. I could tell he was trying, and no matter how little he understood, he never let it show to Anna. He glanced over to us for cues.
“Trains,” I said.
Santa smiled again. “So you like both dolls and trains. Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“No. Des mama, dada, en me.”
The chapter closes on Christmas morning.
… she awoke to find that Santa had brought everything she asked for. A baby doll that giggled, cooed, and cried when she was hungry, an extension for her train set with a fire truck, fire station, and roadway to go through her train tunnel, and, best of all, an Elmo Live doll that sang, danced, and told stories. He also fell over if he missed his chair when sitting down.
“Oh no, Elmo fell down. Could you help Elmo up please?”
Anna picked Elmo up and set him on his feet.
“Thank you. You’re Elmo’s best friend.”
Anna smiled and pushed him over.
“Oh no, Elmo fell down . . .”
Anna laughed as she pushed him down over and over again.
I turned to Julia.
“Some friend,” I whispered.