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 Grandpa Santa 

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If one child in the world calls Santa Clause “Grandpa Santa”, it must be our daughter, NiuNiu (pronounced NewNew, in Chinese a cute little girl). Her stories with “Grandpa Santa” started during her childhood in Beijing China.

Six-year old NiuNiu with one foot left kindergarten and another stepped into primary school. Wow, the outside of kindergarten was so different and amazing! Her curiosity for the new world was rapidly accumulated and eventually overflowed: only 15 days after her enrollment, she skipped school at lunch time with one of her classmates right under their teacher’s nose and played the whole afternoon in a public garden nearby.

“What was wrong with NiuNiu?” We asked ourselves. It seemed nothing. She was just like a little tree eager to reach the sky. How could we “trim” it without hurting the tender growing tips? “Yes, why don’t we bring Christmas to her life and let her know Santa watches year round”! In China, Christmas was not (is not) an official holiday, but we decided to celebrate it for NiuNiu.

Thus for the first time, at 6, NiuNiu heard about Christmas and Santa. Little NiuNiu at once loved the incredible myth, liked the white-bearded old man, HoHoHo and insisted on calling him “Grandpa Santa”. She did not skip school again and everything was maintained quite well since she knew Santa was over there.

One day, however, NiuNiu shared me her worry: “Mom, does Grandpa Santa mind a mistake in my homework?” “What’s up?” I asked. “Mom, is 5-3=2 right?” “Yes.” “Why did Teacher Hu still mark an “X” beside my “2” that I have erased and re-written twice?” When I glanced at her 5-3=2, I almost burst out laughing. Her “2” was backwards! No matter how many times she corrected, the “2” was consistently written backwards. No wonder Teacher Hu kept giving her “X”. “Oh, my dear, Grandpa Santa couldn’t love it more, I am sure!” I cheered her up and saw the little one badly tortured by the “2” breathed easily.

On Christmas Eve, after solemnly hanging a bag on the balcony of our apartment, NiuNiu unwillingly went to bed. The next morning, she got up much earlier than usual. Still half asleep, she smiled secretly and walked cautiously towards the balcony with both hope and uncertainty. When she touched something in the bag, she fully woke up: “Mom, Dad, gifts from Grandpa Santa!” Her little voice rose: “Look! A pencil box with pencils, a ruler, eraser and a pencil sharpener……two bars of chocolate, too!” That special morning, NiuNiu, carrying a school bag full surprise and excitement, hopped joyfully to school, the only child there connected to Grandpa Santa!

The next year, I suggested a bigger bag for Grandpa Santa. In the morning, she absolutely found her Christmas gifts which fitted the bag perfectly. She was excited while questioned: “How did you know, mom I needed a bigger bag this time?”

Even though the question about the “bigger bag” has not been a question for a very long time, we still keep the myth as a joyful secret between NiuNiu and us. So no matter how old NiuNiu is, she can always ask: “Mom and Dad do you know about any gifts from Grandpa Santa this year?” The same answer: “Depends on if you have been good or naughty.”

Since my daughter and I moved to Nova Scotia, Canada in 2005, we have explored real Christmas and become part of it. Still, nobody among our three has pointed the secret out.

Thus, with our love, the stories of NiuNiu and her “Grandpa Santa” are kept writing……

Zhou Hui, in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Dec. 18, 2008, revised in Dec. 2015

 

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