We get to the mall at least 20 minutes early, but there’s already a line. Eight or more kids, mostly babies, and their parents and grandparents waiting to see The Big Guy.

I remember those days, trying to get there early to avoid the dreaded mood-killing wait, hoping they will actually sit on Santa’s lap for 15 seconds for a photo.

The babies are dressed in various levels of Christmas finery — red and white tights, frilly dresses, tiny sweater vests with bow ties. Their strollers and diaper bags bursting with juice bottles, Cheerios, and goldfish crackers.

My “baby” is the first dog in line, but two pugs in Christmas sweaters soon arrive, followed by a few mixed breed dogs about Sam’s size that he’d love to play with. Their “dad” has a bag of dog treats he doles out every few minutes to keep the “kids” quiet, not unlike the parents of the toddlers ahead of us.

The line grows and by the time Santa makes his way to his plush chair for Pet Night, there are 15 to 20 dogs — poodles, golden retrievers, beagles, and various mutts like Sam.

Despite the other dogs, the kids, the commotion, and the shoppers stopping to pet the pooches, Sam lays calmly on the cool tile floor.  Lauren sits next to him, petting him. He rolls onto his back, right there near Gymboree, so she can scratch his belly. He’s a good boy. At least we’ve raised him right, though we can scarcely take credit. He seems to have just been born good. We lucked out with our little pound puppy.

The dog was a lure, of course. Kelly wouldn’t have sat with Santa for a photo—she’s nearly 13, you know (insert snotty tone and eye roll)—but she’ll do it for Sam.

I worry that Sam will be wigged  out by the strange man in red, but he turns around and smiles pretty.  I buy a 5×7 to add to my holiday collection …and I wonder if it’s the last in the series.

xmas pix

xmas pix - 2013

xmas pix - 2005 xmas pix - 2006

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“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”