“You look a little troubled today Santa,” Ms. Claus said as we sat in our favorite chairs in front of the fire.
“I am Anya. I’ve been thinking a lot about things today.”
“Would you like to talk about it?”
“I would, thanks,” I replied. Settling into my seat while sipping cocoa, I continued. “Well you know how everyone is suffering in some way or another over the pandemic.”
“Yes, that is horrible. But we have seen the world recover from things like this before, and I’m sure that it will again.”
“I could not agree more, but my concern is this Christmas. With the Spanish Flu in 1918, the pandemic was beginning to go away by the time the Christmas season started. And back then there were not as many children who wanted to visit with me.”
“But you still visited with them. As I remember, everyone wore masks to protect each other.”
“They did, and I also wore a mask when visiting. But I fear it is more difficult today.”
“Why is that?” Anya asked as she pulled a blanket over her legs.
“People are contagious for a longer period of time before they show symptoms, and some people have it and never show any symptoms. So, more precautions are needed to keep from spreading it to others.”
“Are you worried a mask will not be enough this time?”
Getting up from my chair, I walked toward the fireplace and placed a log on the fire. Turning to face Anya, I nodded. “Yes I am. Since there is no cure or vaccine yet, the last thing I want to happen is for me to carry the virus to children or their parents. But I also do not want to disappoint all the children who look forward to talking with me, either.”
“But how could you give it to someone, if you don’t have the virus?” Anya wondered.
“If someone who has it sits with me, they could leave traces of the virus behind on my suit for my next visitor.”
“That won’t work,” Ms. Claus replied shaking her head. “Maybe you could have a stool or chair for them to sit next to you instead of them sitting on your lap,” she suggested.
“That is a good idea. It would certainly keep the virus off my suit.” As I returned to my chair, I picked up my cup of cocoa, and took a sip. “But,” I continued, “having a piece of clear plexiglass between me and the children, just like the store clerks have, might work even better.”
Anya poured herself more tea as she asked, “How do you think the children will react to you being in a mask or behind a piece of plastic?”
“I think children are more accepting of the precautions than some adults are. During the last pandemic, they all thought it was pretty cool to be wearing a mask. Some of the boys pretended to be cowboys, and the little girls pretended to be nurses.”
With a little chuckle in her voice, Anya responded, “Good for the girls for wanting to be like those who can help.” After a slight pause, she continued, “Is there anything else you might be able to do for your visits?”
“Quinten, the elf in charge of research and development, is trying to convince me to work from home by doing Virtual Visits from right here at the North Pole.”
“Virtual Visits? How would that work?”
“He thinks I should talk with them over the Internet. There are several programs that allow you to have a video chat with someone these days.”
“That does not sound like something you would like,” Anya stated as she offered me half of her cookie.
I took the cookie before Anya could change her mind. “I’d much rather meet in person, but Quinten made some good points.”
“What did he say?”
“First, since I could do the visits from here, I could actually see more children than I usually do. But it was the second part that has me giving this serious consideration. Quinten said that by doing Virtual Visits, parents who are serving in the military, could be in on the call with their children.”
“That would be really great!” Anya exclaimed sitting up in her chair. “I bet grandparents who do not live in the same area as their grandchildren would love to be in on the Virtual Visit as well.”
“I didn’t think of that, but you are right. I bet the grandparents would love to watch the children interact with me.” Feeling like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, I continued, “I feel much better now that we talked this out Anya.”
“It always helps to discuss something with others, Santa. Sharing ideas clears the air.”
“It’s settled then. Any in-person visits will be in masks or behind plexiglass to make sure no one is passing on the virus to anyone else, and if the parents do not like that idea, they can set up a Virtual Visit with me and the children and we can talk on line. I think families will appreciate having more than one option.”
After finishing my cookie and cocoa, I got up and started heading towards the door when Ms. Claus asked, “Where are you going?”
“Now that we have this settled, I need to get with Faer, my elf in charge of the J.A.T.S. (Jolly Assistants To Santa) Corps, so we can start training all of them in how this Christmas will be handled.”
“Always planning ahead,” Anya stated, standing up to give me a kiss. “I think I’ll do some of my own and design Christmas masks for you and the J.A.T.S. It’s definitely going to be a unique Christmas.”
Notes From Santa
To read more about the J.A.T.S. Corps please check out Santa’s Summer Explorations posted on August 5, 2019; and Santa’s Christmas Visits, which was posted on October 21, 2019; and JATS Training, which posted on March 3, 2020
I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next week . . .