A Helicopter Ride to Holiday Junction

“I am so excited,” exclaimed Ms. Claus. “This is my first helicopter ride with you.”

“Though it’s not my first time, it always is fun,” answered Santa grinning from ear to ear. “What a way to get to the Cincinnati Museum Center for our special visit. I think all the children and their families will be impressed.”

Suddenly the doors leading to the U C Medical Center’s helicopter pad were pushed open as the pilot entered from the outside. “Hi, I’m James,” he said smiling. “I’ve been told that the two of you need a lift to the Museum Center, correct?”

“Well,” Ms. Claus responded with a grin. “I’m not sure how else we’ll get there.”

“After all James,” Santa interrupted chuckling, “since I had to leave my reindeer at the North Pole, we were counting on you to get us there safely. If not, lots of boys and girls will be disappointed.”

“Now we can’t let that happen, so let’s move out toward the copter and get the two of you situated.” he stated, leading the way.

As Nurse Katie and Doctor Shawn followed us, they explained some of the procedures of the hospital’s emergency helicopter. “Finally,” Nurse Katie added. “Shawn and I will be flying with you because each flight requires the presence of an emergency team no matter where James flies.”

That’s nice to know,” said Ms. Claus as she stepped on the copter’s side rail and entered through the door. Taking her seat, she added, “That makes Santa and me feel much safer.”

As all of them buckled their seat belts and put on their helmets, the pilot started the helicopter’s engine.

“Well Anya, are you ready?” I called out through the small microphone attached to my headset. “This ride will be a blast.”

“You bet Santa. Let’s get this bird in the air,” she responded while the blades began to spin.

As the copter began to rise, it shuddered until James announced, “Once the stabilizers are engaged, you can expect a smooth ride. Since this is Ms. Claus’s first flight,” he explained, “I thought I’d fly over downtown Cincinnati. Then we’ll make our way towards the museum. Enjoy the view.”

Houses, businesses, and skyscrapers soon passed below the helicopter. Making his way towards the downtown area, James pointed out the Carew Tower and the Great American Tower, the city’s tallest buildings.

As the copter flew close to the Ohio River, I spotted the Bengals football stadium and that of the Cincinnati Reds. “Whenever I fly to this area on Christmas, those two stadiums and the Suspension Bridge sitting between them are my markers for the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. That helps me get my bearings so that I know where to go and what to deliver,” I announced.

“I bet it looks a lot different in the daytime than at night,” Ms. Claus remarked.

“You wouldn’t believe the difference. City lights, especially in a metropolitan area, light up the sky at night. It’s magical,” I added, enjoying the memory.

Banking to the right and heading northeast, James spotted the Museum Center. “I think you have quite a lot of people waiting for you Santa and Ms. Claus,” he announced as the crowd in front of the Museum Center came into view.

Preparing to make a landing on the concrete area in front of the cascading fountain and the concrete stairs, James set the helicopter firmly on the ground. When the blades stopped spinning, Ms. Claus and I exited, waving.

“Look at the crowd of children and their families. What a sight,” I commented to Ms. Claus. “HO! HO! HO! Merry Christmas,” I called out.

“So good to see all of you,” Ms. Claus shouted, “Merry Christmas.”

Making our way up the stairs, Ms. Claus and I greeted the boys and girls with high fives, hand-shakes and hugs. Then I caught sight of one little boy smiling at me. “Those glasses make you look very handsome,” I remarked, “Merry Christmas.”

“Oh Santa,” his mom exclaimed, “Can we get a picture of you and Ms. Claus?”

“Certainly,” I responded.

Suddenly her husband stepped forward with two other children who immediately stood in front of us. “Look at the three of them, Ms. Claus. They wear glasses just like we do,” I commented smiling.

“What a good-looking group we make,” remarked Ms. Claus as the two of us bent downward and grinned at the camera.

Slowly walking up the stairs, Ms. Claus and I continued with the hand-shakes and Merry Christmases until Ms. Claus stopped and directed my attention to another boy. “What do you think of all those dinosaurs on his jacket, Santa?”

Bending towards the boy standing next to his dad, I added, “Did you know that Ms. Claus and I love dinosaurs? We especially love Dinosaur Hall at this museum, and I bet you do too.”

The boy grinned and nodded in agreement.

“Give me a big high five,” I called out.

Continuing our way through the children crowding the steps, Ms. Claus noticed a little girl with blond hair clinging to her mom’s neck. “Hi little lady,” she said. “I love your curls and your unicorn shirt. Purple is one of my favorite colors.”

Smiling shyly, the little girl gave Ms. Claus a hug and whispered, “Thank you.”

“Well will you look at these two brothers,” Santa exclaimed directing Ms. Claus’s attention. “Aren’t you two handsome in those matching sweater vests?”

“Indeed they are Santa,” Ms. Claus responded turning to face the parent’s camera as the mom snapped a group shot.

Reaching the doors of the Museum Center, I pointed towards a little dark-haired girl in red velvet

“What a beautiful dress you are wearing,” Ms. Claus commented. Sliding closer, Ms. Claus gathered her skirt and pulled it close to the dress of the girl. “Notice how the shades of red almost match. We look so Christmasy, don’t you think?”

As the girl grinned, Ms. Claus straightened up and stood on one side of her while Santa walked to the other side. After snapping the picture, the dad whispered, “Thanks, you made my daughter’s day. She loves that red velvet dress.”

Waving to the girl and her father, Santa and Ms. Claus finally made it to the top of the stairs. Crossing the driveway in front of the entrance doors, the two turned and shouted, “Merry Christmas everyone.”

Entering the museum, I took Anya’s hand and asked quietly, “Are you ready for the music, singing and dancing on stage?”

Giving me a quick kiss on my check, she smiled broadly adding, “You bet I am. What a great way to begin the Christmas holiday in such a beautiful place. Let the fun begin.”

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. It is the busy time of year for me, so my stories will be more about the children I run into during my visits.  Until next week . . .

The Nutcracker

“Do you think Fiona, the hippo from the Cincinnati Zoo, will be in the Cincinnati Ballet’s Nutcracker again this year?” I asked as we strolled through the courtyard holding hands.

“I think that might have been a special thing last year. If we can find the time, I would like to see it again,” Ms. Claus responded excitedly.

“It’s a great ballet, that brings Christmas to life,” I responded.

“It’s no surprise that this has become a favorite during the Christmas Season. There is so much magic in his story, sort of like the magic You bring to the season,” Anya said as she began to dance while humming ‘The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.’ “The music and dancing bring the story to life!”

Smiling, I remarked, “Maybe you should have been a dancer. You definitely have the moves.”

“Marrying the best toymaker was better than becoming a dancer!” she exclaimed. “However, I sometimes wonder if the children’s godfather in the story, may have been better than you,” Anya said grinning broadly.

“What? You don’t think I could create a life-sized doll that dances?” I responded with a laugh.

As we took a seat on a bench along the sidewalk in Santa’s Village courtyard, Anya explained, “That is why I love the Nutcracker so much. There is so much magic in the story, and the children, as well as their parents, think Christmas is magical.”

“But the best part of the story,” I said putting my arm around Ms. Claus, “is when Clara, the little girl, sneaks back down to the Christmas tree, after everyone is asleep, to check on her Nutcracker. The toys all seem to come to life and then the Mouse King and his army of mice fill the room.”

Anya chimed in. “Thankfully Clara’s Nutcracker comes to life and leads his army of toy soldiers to battle the mice, like a knight in shining armor.”

“Except the knight in shining armor, was not able to defeat the Mouse King. Clara ends up hitting the King’s head with her slipper to defeat him.”

“I love stories where the girl saves the boy, like Clara saves the Nutcracker.” Giving me a poke in the side, she added, “Kind of like I saved you from being single and lonely.” Unable to hold in her chuckle, Ms. Claus exploded into uncontrollable laughter.

Looking at her I simply replied, “Very funny.”

“You should be happy! You became my Prince, just like the Nutcracker in the story!” Squeezing my arm, and laying her head on my shoulder, she continued. “And then you took me on the most wonderful journey.”

“The Prince and I took our newfound sweethearts to the Land of Snow. For the Prince and Clara, it was a forest and dancing snowflakes that welcomed them. You, however, were greeted by little elves with pointed ears, and ice and snow as far as you could see.”

“You know I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world. But I have to admit, that when you took me into ‘Santa’s Village,’ Bernard did not even come close to the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker story.”

“No arguments from me,” I answered as I laid my head on the top of Anya’s.  But I did take you to Neverland where you met Queen Clarion.”

“You’re right, and I very much enjoy knowing her. The truth is, that if you want to compare me to Clara and you to the Nutcracker, then I got the best deal. Clara eventually awoke from her dream with the same wooden Nutcracker that her godfather made for her. For me, it has been a wonderful on-going adventure with you!”

“I feel the same way,” I explained. “And I hope it never ends.”

“One should never stop dreaming, for you never know when a dream will become reality,” Anya said as she gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. It is the busy time of year for me, so my stories will be more about the children I run into during my visits.  Until next week . . .

Sensitive Letters

“I’m going to take a break now,” Ms. Claus announced to the elves in the mailroom. Turning to Carter, director of the mailroom, she asked quietly. “Can you ask Telsa, in the communication office, to call Sophia and have her come to my study as soon as possible?”

Carter smiled as he reached for the intercom. “Glad you are taking a break Ms. Claus. You’ve been working a lot lately, and you need to stay healthy. The holidays are nearly here.”

Smiling, Ms. Claus replied, “Thanks Carter for your concern.”

Reaching her study, Ms. Claus began to make a pot of tea. While the water boiled, she called down to the kitchen. “Blanch, can you send some sandwiches and those yummy scones to my study? I have a lot of planning to do with Sophia, and I want us to work comfortably.” Elves are a delight to work with, she thought to herself; what would Santa and I do without them?

Shortly after the food arrived, Ms. Claus heard a quiet knock at the door. Hoping it was Sophia, she called out, “Come in and make yourself comfortable.” Since Santa had allowed Sophia to become her assistant, Ms. Claus knew that she finally could tackle the concerns she had about making the mailroom more efficient.

Entering quickly, Sophia smiled. “Hey Ms. Claus, how are you doing today?”

“Fine, and you?”

“Good,” Sophia responded setting her notebook and pen on the table. Seeing the food, the elf breathed a sigh of relief. “I’ve been so busy that I haven’t eaten much today, but you think of everything. Thanks.”

“No problem. I thought we could eat and plan at the same time but without the noise of the mailroom, so enjoy the food.”

Sophia had been a good choice. She was on time, worked hard, and understood the mailroom and the importance of the Wish List as well as Santa’s Nice and Naughty List. “I’ve been thinking,” Ms. Claus began, “about the mailroom and how to improve working with children’s letters.”

“But Ms. Claus,” Sophia remarked putting her half-eaten sandwich on the plate, “I thought we had everything under control and that both you and Santa were happy with the improvements the elves and I have made?”

“We are,” Ms. Claus quickly responded as she noticed the shocked look on Sophia’s face. “But…  well… there is one area that is close to my heart that we need to look at this year. So, I thought today we could come up with a plan about what I call sensitive letters.”

Giving Ms. Claus an odd look, Sophia finally said, “I’m not sure what you mean Ms. Claus. No one in the mailroom has ever talked about sensitive letters.”

“You’re right, so let me explain. You know how Santa receives letters that bother him more than others?”

“Sort of.”

The mystified look on Sophia’s face made Ms. Claus realize that she and Santa had not discussed the issue. “Well let me give you an example so that you can see what I mean. Do you remember a little girl by the name of Carmen and how concerned Santa was about her?”

The elf nodded, pushing her plate back to the middle of the table. “Wasn’t she the little girl who was very sick with pneumonia and other health problems and didn’t seem to care about doing anything?”

Smiling, Ms. Claus nodded adding, “You have a good memory. Santa and I were very concerned about her. She didn’t even want to write her letter to Santa, so her dad wrote it for her in early November explaining Carmen’s situation. That’s what I call a sensitive letter. It describes how unhappy, worried, scared, or angry a child can be.”

Picking up on what Ms. Claus meant, Sophia shared another memory. “I think I know what you mean. Recently a boy named Noah wrote that he had no friends because his family kept moving from place to place. Whenever he settled into a new neighborhood and school, the kids already had their own friends and kind of ignored him. Was that also a sensitive letter?” asked Sophia.

“You definitely have the right idea,” said Ms. Claus. “Most children are happy when the holiday season begins. Their letters are full of stories about how they are trying to be good, and then they include their Christmas list. However,” Ms. Claus added shaking her head sadly, “there are other children who only see the sad things around them or are worried about their family and friends. Some are even angry and scared about what’s going on in the world.”

“You and Santa never really talk about that,” answered Sophia. “Why?”

“We don’t want to make things harder on the elves. Santa can’t find lost pets or heal someone who is really sick. These issues are beyond his control; yet that’s what many children write about in their letters, so I call them sensitive letters.”

“But if Santa can’t do anything about them, how can we do that in the mailroom?”

Sophia’s simple answer made Ms. Claus chuckle. “You’re right Sophia, but I wasn’t exactly thinking about the mailroom taking care of children’s problems. Instead, I want to get these letters to Santa more quickly. I’ve heard him often say, ‘If only I knew about that child’s problem sooner.’ In Carmen’s case, do you know what Santa did?”

Sophia shook her head.

“The same day that he read the dad’s letter, he called Carmen on his special phone and left her a message of encouragement,” explained Ms. Claus. “This year Santa has already received Carmen’s letter. It’s positive, and she is healthier. To her, his words made a difference. Mailroom efficiency, especially regarding sensitive letters, is my priority this year.”

Sitting up straight with a gleam in her eye, Sophia grabbed her notebook and pen. “I’m thinking that Carter and I could do some training with the elves who work the mail room, so they can recognize these letters. Then we should put them all in a special book, just like the Wish Book and Behavior Book. Maybe we could call it the Comfort Book?”

“I knew you were the elf for the job,” Ms. Claus responded. Grabbing the mugs, she poured some hot tea into both. “Let’s talk about how we can make that happen.”

As Ms. Claus sat back and listened to Sophia explain her idea in more detail, she thought how kind-hearted the elves were. When it came to children, especially those in need, she and Santa knew that bringing joy into a child’s life was the most important part of Christmas.

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. It is the busy time of year for me, so my stories will be more about the children I run into during my visits.  Until next week . . .

Illustration by FireMane Studio 

Ms. Claus Gets Some Help

“Bernard, have you noticed anything different about Ms. Claus lately?” I inquired as we walked past the kitchen.

Taking my arm, to keep me from following the sweet scent of gingerbread cookies coming from the kitchen, he replied, “I’m not sure what you mean. I do seem to be running into her more these days.”

Looking back over my shoulder toward the kitchen, I responded, “That’s my point. With the growing number of children, we have had to add more elves and workshops. Because of that, I am busier and busier all the time.”

“But Santa, you have me, and we have some very good elves working here now.”

“Bernard, I don’t think you understand,” I answered after the scent of cookies disappeared. “It’s not the toy production. It’s all the other things. We collect many more letters than we used to and then there is the Wish List and the Naughty or Nice List. You would not believe how many requests Carter, the Mail Room supervisor, has received asking me to show up at an event or a house.”

“I guess I never really see that end.”

“I’m amazed,” I continued, “how she senses when I begin to worry about things not getting done on time. She will say, ‘Santa, I’ve got some time. Why don’t you let me take care of something for you?’”

“That sounds like a good thing for you.”

“You’re right, but what if she is taking on too much? I don’t want her to take on more than she can handle. When I walked into the Mail Room this morning, Carter told me there was nothing that needed my attention.”

“Again, that sounds like a good thing. You should be happy the Mail Elves are doing so well.”

“Oh, I am! But then, as I was leaving, Carter shouted, ‘Santa, be sure to thank Ms. Claus for her help.’ I waved back to let him know I heard him, but wasn’t sure what he was talking about.”

“You should have asked him.”

“You’re right, I should have. I had too much to do though, and I continued on to the Vault Room, where we keep the Naughty and Nice List. Once I arrived, entered the combination, and opened the door, I was shocked.”

“Walking inside I found all the notes from the Scout Elves and the J.A.T.S. Corp members already sorted into stacks on the tables. I found all the notes carefully organized; the good things were on the table on the right, and the bad on the table on the left. I was able to go straight to the Naughty stack and read those notes, without sorting through all the good things. That way I instantly knew which children the scout elves and I needed to keep an eye on.”

“That’s pretty efficient. Who sorted them all?”

“Ms. Claus is the only other person with the combination to that room, so it had to have been her. And that’s my point. I think she is doing too much.”

“I see what you mean. Has she complained?”

“No, she has never said a word.  She also oversees the kitchen and the elf dormitories.”

Looking a bit ashamed, Bernard added, “And when you leave for your yearly visits during December, I always check with her about any problems I run into, just like I do with you when you are here.”

“That’s right!” I exclaimed, nodding my head and muttering, “I know what I have to do.”

I left Bernard at the door to his office and headed back toward the kitchen. Walking in, I first looked over toward the elves making the gingerbread cookies. I really wanted a cookie, but knew talking with Anya was more important.

Scanning the kitchen, I saw her sitting at a table with Blanch, the elf in charge of the kitchen elves, and walked toward them. As I approached, Anya looked up and said, “Hello dear. Blanch and I were just going over the menu for the rest of the week. I hope you did not come in for a cookie.”

“I would like one, but I came in to talk with you,” I said smiling.

Pushing her chair back and standing up, Blanch knew what to do. “She is all yours Santa, we just finished, and I need to check on the cookies,” she explained.

“Thanks Blanch.” Sitting down, I looked at Anya, saying, “I don’t know what I would do without you.”

“Well, thank you Santa. I feel the same about you.”

“I’m just trying to make things easier for you,” Ms. Claus said while slipping her hand over mine.

“And I am very appreciative, but I was thinking,” I answered, giving her hand a squeeze. You know I have Bernard to help me oversee the workshops, and he has several supervisors that help him. Since you keep helping me out more and more, I think it is time for you to have an assistant as well.”

Smiling broadly, Anya leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “I’m glad you think so. I was going to talk with you about that.”

“You should start searching for an assistant right away,” I said as the scent from the cookies was beginning to distract me.

“I already know who I want. Sophia, the elf who has helped me with the Elf Dorms, would be perfect. She is a hard worker and the other elves respect her.”

“Well then it’s settled. Let’s promote her to your assistant right away.”

“Thank you dear. With the increasing number of children each year, we all need to pitch in to keep the Magic of Christmas alive and well. I will tell her when I see her later today.”

“I wish I had thought of this sooner, but now you will have the help you need,” I said as I stood to give her a hug.

“Thank you dear. I know you want a cookie,” she said leading me toward the cookie trays by the ovens. “It’s ok to take one on your way out, but just one.”

Eating my cookie, as I walked down the hall towards my office, I was relieved to know that not only did Ms. Claus have my back, but now she had Sophia to help her. It felt good to know that I could visit all my little friends in December and not have to worry about how things are going at the North Pole.

Note from Santa: 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 . . .

Illustration by FireMane Studio 

Scout Elves Are Coming

As we walked up the red brick sidewalk to Elf Hall, I asked Birdie, my elf in charge of Scout Elves, “This meeting is just for the Scout Elves, and the Jolly Assistants To Santa (J.A.T.S.) Corps is tomorrow, right?”

“That’s right, Santa. They are very excited to be returning to the children soon,” she responded. “They feel like they are part of the families, and love seeing how much the children grow each year.”

As we approached the door, the noise from inside grew louder and louder. Grabbing the door’s handle, I looked at Birdie and began, “I sure hope the elves are not . . .”

Opening the door, the noise from inside made my words disappear. Birdie rushed inside, ran up to the stage, and banged a large gong.

Only then did things begin to settle down. Walking up to join Birdie on the stage, I saw several elves pointing at me with one hand, and placing a finger over their lips with their other one.

“I see, or should I say, I hear you are ready to be with the children,” I remarked loudly. “Now that Halloween is over and Thanksgiving will be here soon, the families want to prepare for the return of their Elf on the Shelf, or what we call, Scout Elves.”

“I’m ready now, Santa,” Snickers yelled, followed by cheers.

“I know you are, and I appreciate your enthusiasm, yet there are some things we must go over, especially since we have many new Scout Elves this year. Birdie will go over the rules, once we quiet down.”

“Thank you, Santa.” Walking to the center of the stage, she put a sign on the easel that read, RULE #1: REMAIN SILENT. She continued, “Anytime there are people awake in the house, you must not move or talk, and listen to what’s being said around the house.”

“What are we listening for,” Scarfy asked.

“Good question. Santa needs to know what the children want for Christmas. He then checks the list he gets from the children, against what you hear, to make sure he delivers the right toys.”

With the elves nodding in agreement, she placed another sign on top of the first one that read, RULE #2: OBSERVE BEHAVIOR.

“This is really important,” Birdie said in a firm voice. “All of you know Santa cannot be everywhere, and our J.A.T.S. Corps can only help watch so many children, so I need you to listen and watch for things that the children are doing that will help Santa decide which list they should be on.”

“Aren’t children always good?” Peppermint asked, as she fidgeted in her chair.

“Most of them are, but it seems they go through periods where they can be a little naughty. Santa usually forgives them when he sees that they are learning from their mistakes. There is the rare occasion, however, when they don’t learn, don’t listen to their parents, and then he has no choice but to put them on the Naughty List.”

All the elves began grumbling over the thought of anyone being put on the Naughty List. Then Elfie, the oldest Scout Elf, spoke up, “That is why he checks his list twice and sometimes even more, right Santa?”

Leaning forward in my chair, I responded, “You are right. I take that list very seriously. I check my notes, your notes, as well as my J.A.T.S. notes, before I put anyone on the Naughty list.”

Giving a nod to Birdie, she continued, “These first two rules are the most important. Does anyone have any questions?”

The elves were giving a thumbs up in agreement, and another sign was set up. This one read RULE #3: REPORT NIGHTLY. “In order to process this information quickly, you will need to return to the North Pole each night with your report on the children you watch. A crew of elves will help you write what the children want in the Wish Book, as well as how they have been behaving in the Behavior Book,” Birdie instructed.

“Then we get to go back to the same house?” Syrup asked.

“Yes, but you should pick a different place in the house. Moving around allows you to watch them doing different things in different rooms.”

“When do we get to explore?” Jellybean, one of the new elves asked.

“I explore all night, until the family wakes up in the morning,” Ruby a veteran of the Scout Elves explained. I love roaming the house to see all the rooms and notice the small things I can’t see when everyone is awake.”

Feeling uncomfortable about the comments, Birdie said, “I understand you want to play and explore while you are there, but you must clean up after yourself.”

Ruby responded, “But sometimes they wake up before I get things cleaned up. Last year I found a bag of those tiny marshmallows and accidentally spilled them all over the kitchen counter. I had just started putting them back in the bag when they all woke up. I didn’t have time to clean them all up.”

Skippy added, “I was using the toilet paper to measure how tall their tree was. I was about half way up the tree when they came out of their rooms, and all I could do was freeze where I was on the tree.”

Standing up, I remarked, “You all need to understand that the children tell me what you are doing when they visit with me. So, I hope I only hear about how you got caught doing something good or fun before you could clean up. If I hear how you have done something bad, you could end up on the Naughty List.”

Birdie was quick to add, “If you are bad, you could also lose your privilege of being a Scout Elf. So please be on your best behavior.”

The next sign, placed on top of the others, read, RULE #4: AVOID BEING TOUCHED. Mumbling began filling the hall when Birdie continued, “This last rule is for your benefit. If you are a new Scout Elf, be sure to listen very closely. Children are naturally curious. Once they know they can touch you and nothing happens, they will then start playing with you. That’s when it becomes a problem.”

Some of the new Scout Elves began giggling when Elfie stood and shouted, “It’s not funny! You will not be allowed to return to the home, and have to stay at the North Pole!” As the giggling died down, she continued. “This happened to me twice my first year. I didn’t like having to leave, but I could not do my job. Santa depends on us, and if you can’t do your job because the children are playing with you, then you might as well not be there.”

As Elfie sat back in her chair, Birdie added, “She’s right. You need to be sure to pick a place out of reach of the children. Let’s all help Santa make this a great Christmas for the children. I think that covers everything. Does anyone have any questions?”

Snickers jumped up and asked, “So we can head down to our families now?”

Birdie looked toward me and with a nod of my head, the elves began cheering. Then Birdie held up her hand one last time to quiet the room. “I think all of you know that before leaving, Bernard must be satisfied that you have all your chores here at the North Pole completed, and then you must have Ms. Claus check your room.”

“Why is Ms. Claus checking our rooms?” asked Jellybean.

“Just like parents expect their children to clean their rooms, you must also clean yours before you leave. After all, keeping your room clean and neat will help you understand what the children are learning.”

As all the Scout Elves filed out of Elf Hall, singing and laughing, I looked at Birdie and said, “Don’t tell anyone, but all the stories about the Scout Elves I hear from the children actually make me smile.”

“What? I thought you just told them to behave.”

“Oh, indeed I did. Keeping them in line is part of my job. Seeing and talking to the children gives me a good feeling inside, and that gives me an understanding of how the Scout Elves feel. Everyone needs to be a little silly sometimes. After all, it is the season to be Jolly!”

Note from Santa: Looking to get Great pictures for your Christmas cards? I have two photo sessions coming up in November. Make your appointment today at one of the Santa In Toyland sessions.

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 . . .

Illustration by FireMane Studio

How Dasher Became Part of Santa’s Team

“That’s quite a storm outside,” Ms. Claus said as we sipped our hot chocolate and shared a piece of apple pie.

“It is pretty bad, but not as bad as the time we thought we lost Sachi,” I responded.

“How could any of us forget that day! But in the end, it worked out pretty good for you, Santa.”

“You are right about that,” I said sitting back in my easy chair.

*    *    *    *    *

Several elves screamed, “Duck Santa,” and I bent over just in time to have a snowball miss me by inches.

Over all the gasps from the elves, I heard one say, “Sorry Santa! I wasn’t aiming at you.”

I smiled and waved my hand to show that I was okay, and not upset about the close call. After all, the elves and reindeer were just out having some fun.

Just then, Bernard came running out of the entrance to Santa’s Village with a megaphone and announced, “Attention everyone!” And then pointing to the West he continued, “There is a blizzard heading our way and, we all need to get back inside before it gets here.”

All the elves quickly picked up their belongings and headed inside. The last one came in just as the snow and wind picked up. All anyone could see was white, as if someone had put a sheet over the entrance.

I started walking down the tunnel towards the village when I heard, “Has anyone seen Sachi?”

Stopping, I walked back to the entrance where Bernard was. I could tell from all the gasps and looks that Sachi did not make it in.

“Bernard, we need to call Polar Pete. He is the best tracker in the North Pole,” I yelled above the howling of the storm.

“I am . . .” he started when suddenly a strong gush of air rushed past us. “What was that?”

“One of the big reindeer must have gotten spooked and dashed off,” I responded, looking to see who it was.

“Well I’d rather concentrate on getting Sachi back inside where it is safe, and not worry about some scared reindeer,” Bernard responded agitated, shaking his head.

As Bernard and I made plans to find Sachi, I noticed all the elves pointing to the entrance. Looking toward the end of the tunnel, still blanketed in blowing snow, I asked, “Is that a reindeer coming in from the blizzard?”

“It is Santa. And look what is behind him,” Bernard replied nodding his head toward the entrance.

Taking off my glasses and rubbing my eyes, I could not believe what I saw. With the snow swirling near the entrance, the reindeer became completely visible as he entered the tunnel. Holding onto his tail was Sachi!

As the elves cheered, I cried out, “Highstep, would be so proud! That reindeer dashed out into the blizzard, not thinking twice about his own safety.”

“He sure did Santa, and he found Sachi and brought her safely back inside.”

“You know Bernard, I have never seen a reindeer move that fast from a dead start.”

As everyone was congratulating the reindeer for his heroics, Highstep, the elf in charge of reindeer, came running up the tunnel. Nearly out of breath after running over from the barn, he said, “I just heard about an elf lost in the blizzard. What can I do to help Santa?”

“Thanks to that reindeer,” I said pointing in his direction, “the elf has been found. Have you been working with that reindeer?”

“I have, and he has been making some of the Mail Sleigh runs to pick up letters from the children. Why do you ask?”

“Well, without even thinking about what might happen to himself, he dashed out into the blizzard, found Sachi, and brought her safely back inside. He was so quick; all we saw was a blur, and it felt like someone turned a big fan on for a few seconds.”

“I’ve been noticing that sleighs get up off the ground faster when he is on the team,” Highstep added.

“Well, after what we all just witnessed, any reindeer that quick and willing to risk his own safety to help someone else should be part of my team. Highstep, can you work with him? With his quickness, I think he should be in the front, right next to Dancer.”

“I’ll do that. He will make a great addition to the team.”

“If he doesn’t have a name yet, I think we should call him Dasher, to remind us of today.”

Moving toward Dasher to thank him, and tell him of my decision to add him to the team, I felt a little tear of joy roll down my check as I watched Sachi give him the biggest hug.

As I thanked Dasher an idea came to me. “Sachi, you know because of what Dasher did today, I am putting him on my team for Christmas. As a member of that team, he will get an elf to help care for him, and I was wondering if . . .”

Sachi broke in shouting, “YES, YES, YES, I would love to be his caretaker!”

“Well it’s a done deal then. Highstep will get you both set up in the main barn.”

*    *    *    *    *

Smiling from the memory, I placed my empty cup in the sink, and turned to Ms. Claus, “You know Anya, I’m always amazed at how something that might be really bad, can turn out to be a truly good thing.”

“You are so right Santa. You could have lost a good elf to that storm, but in the end, you gained a very faithful member for your team.”

“I did, and Dasher got a caretaker who loves him very much!”

Note from Santa: 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 . . .

Illustration by FireMane Studio

Santa’s Christmas Visits

Entering the Mail Room I heard Anya say, “I’m over here Santa,” over the buzz of the elves translating letters from children.

Turning to my right, I saw her waving as she walked to her desk. I headed over to her and gave her a hug. As we embraced, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Spinning around to see who it was, Carter, the elf who helps Ms. Claus in the Mail Room, stood there with a stack of letters, “Santa, these are the letters from people who want you to visit before Christmas.”

“That looks like a bigger stack than last year, Carter.”

“It is and I think you may have some tough choices to make.”

“Well let’s take the letters down to my office and get started then.”

Entering my office Carter took a seat at the small conference table in the corner, and I walked behind my desk. Shuffling some papers around, I found the leather-bound appointment book and headed toward the table and sat across from Carter.

“These two letters need our immediate attention.” Sliding the letters in front of Santa, Carter explained, “These two places would like you to come early so that the parents can get good pictures of their children with you.”

“These are for November. I don’t usually start visiting until after Thanksgiving.”

“I thought that was strange as well. But apparently many people are sending Christmas cards with family pictures on them now. The parents have been asking about getting pictures early so they don’t have to rush during December.”

“I see this one is from the parent’s organization of a school in Burlington, which makes sense, since they help the school, but what is this Venture Crew from Union?”

“It’s a Boy Scout program, and it helps young adults between the ages of 14 and 20. The purpose of Venturing is to provide positive experiences that enable young people to become responsible adults. And the best part is that, it is open to both boys and girls!”

“Well let’s help them out then. It should be easy to find dates for them in November.”

“Consider it done Santa.”

“Who is next on the list?”

“The Holiday Junction at the Cincinnati Museum Center has requested some extra time from you this year.”

“I’ve always visited their Holiday Junction three days a week, and then one of my Jolly Assistants To Santa Corps (J.A.T.S.) members covered the other days. What are they requesting?”

“They were hoping that you would consider doing a fourth day, and they would like you to continue doing the Storytelling on Mondays.”

“If it is a weekday, I think we could do that. Most requests seem to be for the weekends.”

“Well they were also hoping that you could arrive on the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

“Has anyone else requested that day,” I asked.

“As of now, this is the only one. I think it might be fun for you.” Carter said. Acting a bit nervous he added, “They are also requesting Ms. Claus for the arrival.”

“That should not be an issue, but you sound a bit concerned.”

“I’m not sure how either of you feel about flying.”

“Ms. Claus and I fly all the time in our sleighs. You’re not making any sense,” I stated, a little confused.

“They want you to arrive in a helicopter.”

“I see,” I responded as I stroked my beard. “I’m fine with that, and I’m sure Ms. Claus will be as well. After all, it is for the children. I’ll talk with her later about it. What about the Kindervelt visits that benefit Children’s Hospital?”

“That is still on, but the dates have changed a little bit because of how late Thanksgiving is this year. I penciled in December 13th and 14th for them, if it works for you.”

Looking at my book I replied, “Those dates are good. Are the rest of the letters requests for home visits?”

“Yes, and once again, we have more requests than you could possibly do. We will need to coordinate with our J.A.T.S. Corps. Birdie, the elf who helps coordinate all your helpers, should be in on our conversations.”

“I agree. We will need many of them to help out this Christmas Season.”

“Birdie and I have been working the last couple weeks getting the list all up to date, and he is visiting with some of them today. Would you have time to talk with him tomorrow?”

“I will make the time. If I can’t get to all the homes, then It’s important that a J.A.T.S. Corps member gets to them. How about meeting with Birdie in the morning after breakfast?”

“Sounds good. I will finalize all the visits we talked about today.” Gathering up all the letters Carter said, “See you in the morning.”

As Carter walked out the door, Anya came in and asked, “You didn’t go through all the letters already did you?”

“No. We need Birdie to coordinate the visits with the J.A.T.S. Corps. But we did get some visits worked out, and I need to talk about one with you.” Pointing to the couch in my office, I continued, “Have a seat.”

After Anya settled down on the couch, I sat next to her and told her, “The Cincinnati Museum Center would like you to arrive with me on the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

“We usually do not do anything on that day, so yes, I’d love to do that with you!”

“There is a condition.”

“What are you talking about Santa?”

“Well they would like us to arrive in a helicopter,” I said awkwardly, fearing Anya would not like it.

“Well, I don’t see why that should be an issue. After all, we fly around all the time in a sleigh with reindeer. I think it will be fun,” she answered giving me a hug.

“I’m glad you agree!” Grabbing her hand, and kissing the back of it, I continued, “That’s one of the many reasons I love you, you’re always up for an adventure. It will be a great way to begin the Christmas Season!”

Santa’s Notes:
To learn more about the J.A.T.S. Corps please check out “Santa’s Summer Explorations”, which was posted on August 5, 2019

To learn more about the Mail Room please check out “Translating Letters For Santa”, which was posted on August 19, 2019

For more information about Cincy Santa’s Fundraiser for your organization please visit Santa In Toyland

Learn more about Cincinnati Museum Center’s Holiday Junction

Learn more about Children’s Hospital’s Kindervelt

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 . . .

 Illustration by FireMane Studio

Returning From Vacation

“Welcome back Santa and Ms. Claus,” Highstep said as Ms. Claus landed her sleigh, the Dulcet, just inside the east entrance to the North Pole.

“It’s good to be back home again,” I replied getting out of the sleigh.

“Any issues with the reindeer,” Highstep asked as he began to unhitch the team.

“Not at all. Clarice and Olive were great. Your training has paid off.”

Sensing a bit of uneasiness in my voice, Ms. Claus said, “Santa, I can tell you are anxious to talk with Bernard and catch up on things. So, if you want, I can get a couple of elves to help me unload the sleigh and take our things back to the house. That way you can go right over to Bernard’s office.”

“That would be great. Thanks Anya!”

Moving through the barn I suddenly found myself just standing there, taking in the scent of the barn and reindeer. Thinking about how much I had missed the scent of home, Highstep opened the door, to bring Clarice and Olive in. Seeing me standing in the middle of the barn, he said, “Is everything okay Santa?”

“Just lost my focus for a minute,” I explained smiling, and started walking toward the office again.

Reaching for the handle to open the door to the administration building, I heard, “Santa! You’re home. We all sure missed you and Ms. Claus.”

Looking back over my left shoulder, I saw Chumley heading toward me. “Chumley, good to see you again. We missed all of you as well.”

“Did you visit Ben & Jerry’s?”

“We did and I tasted your Chunky Monkey ice cream.”

“It’s really good isn’t it?”

“It is. They had big posters of the top ten flavors, lining one of the walls. I took a picture of Chunky Monkey for you. After we settle back in, I’ll bring it to you.”

“Wow, thanks Santa,” Chumley shouted as he skipped off singing, “I’m getting a picture of Chunky Monkey, I’m getting a picture of Chunky Monkey, I’m getting a picture . . .”

Feeling delighted to have made Chumley so happy, I entered the building and headed toward Bernard’s office. Looking in, I saw something I never thought I’d see. Bernard was lying on his couch, sound asleep.

Deciding to let him rest, I turned to leave when I heard, “Santa?. . . Santa! When did you get back? I was just . . .”

“It’s okay Bernard. I left you with a lot of extra work, so I understand you wanting to get a little nap in. I’ve done that many times myself.”

“To tell you the truth Santa, I was a little bored.”

“Bored? You’re joking right?”

“I’m not kidding. When I told the department heads that you and Ms. Claus were taking a little vacation before the season, Fizzlepop, your elf in charge of the electronic toy shop, decided to do more. As he put it, ‘I think we should all pick it up a bit. That way we can show Santa we are up to the task when he needs it.’”

“All the supervisors agreed, without hesitation, and it has been a pretty easy three weeks. That took a lot of pressure off me, and found I did not have as much to do.”

“I’m really proud of everyone. Not just the supervisors, but all of the elves.  But I have to ask, what did you do with all your extra time?”

“Remember how you were concerned about the production line for the L.O.L. Surprise! Bigger Surprise?”

“I do. I’m concerned we won’t be able to make enough for all the children who want one.”

“Well, Quinten, from over in Research and Development, worked on the line with me. After some adjustments we were able to increase production by 25%!”

“Wow! That is a load off my mind. Sounds like you made great use of your extra time.”

“Thanks Santa. You know none of us like it when we can’t make enough of a popular toy.”

“That’s my favorite part of all the elves and dwarfs here at the North Pole. Sounds like everything is under control. If there is nothing that needs my immediate attention, I guess I should go help Ms. Claus unpack.”

“I think we are good Santa, but you will probably need to spend some extra time in the mail room tomorrow, to catch up on the children’s letters. The Mail Elves were pretty busy while you were gone. The children are starting to make their lists for Christmas.”

“I may read some tonight. See you in the morning, Bernard,” I said turning towards the door.

Walking into our apartment, I was greeted with the question, “It was all under control wasn’t it,” from Ms. Claus.

“It was as if they did better without me,” I said as I sat in my favorite easy chair.

“Oh Santa. You know the reason it all went so well. They like you too much to disappoint you.”

“I know. I’m feeling so loved right now. I can’t wait to share that love with all the children at Christmas. I guess the old saying, ‘You get what you give,’ is still true.”

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. Next Monday I will tell you how Dasher got his name and on my team. 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 . .

Santa & Ms. Claus on Vacation (Part 3)

Santa Surprises Ms. Claus

“What do you want to do Santa,” Ms. Claus asked as she finished getting ready for the day.

“I have a couple of special places I want you to see,” I responded as I pulled on my shoes.

“I like surprises. Any hints you can give me?”

“I think I will just show you,” I replied and gave her a wink.

Driving in the car heading east, we approached a small town. A sign, partially hidden by trees turning orange and bright red, said: Quoddy Head State Park. With an arrow pointing to the right, I turned down the road. As it changed from blacktop to gravel, we began to smell the salt water scent of the Atlantic Ocean.

Sensing that we were close to our destination, Ms. Claus gasped with surprise as Quoddy Head Lighthouse came into view. “What an amazing building. With the red and white stripes, it reminds me of Chumley and his candy canes.”

“They have been painting it like that since 1808, and I use it as a point of reference to help find my way on Christmas,” I explained.

After parking the car, we walked down the long gravel drive toward the lighthouse and small white brick building, now a Visitor Center. Tugging on Anya’s vest, I directed her to the back, by the lighthouse. “There’s something I want to show you before we go in the Visitor Center.”

As we walked around the house, we came to a two-by-four foot wide piece of granite with Easternmost Point In the USA, West Quoddy Head, Lubec, Maine carved on the surface.

“This used to be the very first place I would stop in the United States on Christmas.”

“Used to be?” Ms. Claus questioned.

“The Grays lived here then with their children, and took care of the lighthouse. With automation, no one lives here anymore, but I still use the lighthouse as a marker and then go into town and start my deliveries.”

“So, this is where it all begins for the children of the United States.”

“It certainly does,” I responded as we walked around and went into the Visitor Center, where they had pictures of the Grays I could share with Anya.

Finishing a tour of the house, Anya and I made our way outside, letting the wind blowing west from the ocean push us up the steep drive to our car. “That was interesting,” Ms. Claus said as I opened the door of the car for her. “But you told me you had two surprises. What’s the other?”

“Well, for the next surprise, we need to cross over to Campobello Island.”

As we drove into Canada a sign appeared saying, FDR International Park 2 km.

“Wait a minute!” Looking puzzled Ms. Claus asked, “Wasn’t Franklin D. Roosevelt the 32nd President of the United States?”

“He was,” I responded with a smile on my face.

“Then why is the park honoring him in Canada?”

“That’s a good question. You see,” I explained grinning, “Franklin and Eleanor had a summer home here on the island. Franklin loved coming here and sailing around the islands, while Eleanor enjoyed taking nature walks in the woods with the children every chance she had.”

As I pulled the car into the park, a large red house appeared to our right. “That’s the Roosevelt’s house. Today the area is an international park run by Canada and the USA. We can tour it if you would like.”

“I’d love to do that!” Anya answered, quickly opening her door once I parked the car. “You know I love historical places and their stories.”

“Franklin and Eleanor helped to improve the lives of others in the United States,” I explained as we headed toward the Visitor Center. “Together they found ways to work with others for the betterment of all. I loved my talks with Franklin on the back porch, and enjoyed sharing ideas with Eleanor on our walks around the island.”

Entering the Center, we signed up for the next tour. Sitting next to Anya, as we waited, I heard her whisper, “Thanks so much for this special day. I love going places with you.” Squeezing my hand, she added, “Learning about the people and areas that are meaningful to your life helps me see why you choose to do what you do.”

*    *    *    *    *    *

An Ice Cream Adventure

“Do you think we will be able to taste some of the ice cream,” Ms. Claus asked as we pulled into the crowded parking lot of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory.

“If we do, I want to taste the Chunky Monkey that Chumley likes so much,” I responded.

As we walked toward the Visitor Center for a tour, Ms. Claus observed, “I thought we’d see more children, but there are mostly adults here.”

“I agree, but they look like children excited about going downstairs on Christmas morning to see what I left them,” I exclaimed.

Walking through the outside courtyard, I suddenly got very hungry. Every seat outside seemed to be filled with people licking ice cream cones. Sensing that I was about to get in line to buy one for myself, Ms. Claus grabbed my hand and said, “Let’s go inside and take the tour. We can treat ourselves to some ice cream after that.”

Reluctantly I agreed, “Okay. But I’m not leaving without some.”

Entering the Visitor Center, we found the main desk, and as we approached, Olivia, who was sitting there asked, “Are you here for the tour?”

“You betcha,” I responded.

“Well you are just in time. I am about to start a tour in just a few minutes. Here are your tickets, and we will meet just to the right by the door marked Tours.”

“How will we know it’s time?”

“When you hear the cow bell ringing, it will be time.”

It was not long before the bell rang, and everyone taking the tour moved toward the door, like cows heading for the barn.

After watching a short movie, we followed Olivia to a room looking down on the production floor, where they were making Justice ReMix’d.

Whispering to Ms. Claus I said, “This is what I always liked about Ben & Jerry. They care very much about other people, and are always trying to raise awareness about issues through their ice cream.”

With a look of confusion, Ms. Claus whispered back, “How does ice cream bring about social awareness?”

“Through their Justice ReMix’d, they are working with others to support reforms that invest in people instead of prisons,” I responded.

“I like that idea.”

About that time, I heard the words I had been waiting for. “Now if you would all follow me down the stairs to our right, I will see if I can get all of you a sample to try,” Olivia said.

When everyone was in the room, Olivia first asked if there were any questions. I immediately raised my hand and asked, “What is the Flavor Lab over in the corner?”

“That is where our flavor developers try different combinations of ingredients for future ice cream flavors.”

Looking at Ms. Claus I said, “I’m glad Chumley is not here.”

“Why is that?”

“If he got a look at that Lab, he would want one just like it,” I laughed.

“Now, if there are no more questions, who is interested in some ice cream?” Olivia asked, as a tray of cups filled with ice cream was set on the counter. “Today we have our Vanilla Carmel Fudge for you to try,” she said handing out the cups.

Sounds of satisfaction filled the room as everyone gulped down their sample, until Oliva announced, “That concludes our tour. As you move down the hallway, on the left you will see pictures of our top ten flavors. However, not all our flavors work out the way we would like. So be sure to visit the Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Cemetery to see the flavors we no longer make. It is outside to the right and just to the left of our solar panel farm.”

Walking into the hallway, I saw the pictures of the top ten lining the wall. I got my camera out to take a picture of Chunky Monkey, but under #1 was a picture of Half Baked. Continuing down the hall, I finally found the picture of Chumley’s favorite under #9. Somewhat disappointed for Chumley, I decided to take the picture without the number, and let him continue to think it was #1.

Outside, Ms. Claus and I got some cones to eat while visiting the Flavor Cemetery. “You know Santa, Ben and Jerry’s is more than what I expected,” Anya stated while entering through the purple gate of the cemetery.

“I agree, Anya. Ben & Jerry always talked about doing things for the people and the environment, ever since they were in high school. They made sure the company they created, operated the same way, even after they retired and sold the business. You have to admit that drawing people in with delicious ice cream and making a social comment at the same time is an unusual way to do business.”

“But it works Santa,” Ms. Claus said licking her cone, “so let’s support what they do and enjoy our ice cream.”

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. Ms. Claus and I have now returned to the North Pole, Ready for the Christmas Season. 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 . . .

Stories from Santa & Ms. Claus on Vacation (Part 2)

A Historic Tour of Boston

Exhausted from a day of walking around Boston, Ms. Claus and I sat on a wooden bench waiting for the train to take us back for the night. As the scent of cinnamon rolls filled the train station, I perked up. I was about to buy one when I heard, “Finchburg, train #425, is now boarding on track 9.”

“That’s us,” I said to Anya, my wife. Holding her hand, we made our way to Track 9.

As we walked out onto the train platform I said, “No one understands more than you do how much I love taking a train ride. It’s one of the few times I can sit back and enjoy the scenery without the responsibility of driving my team of reindeer, and deciding where to stop. If only they had hot chocolate, like the Polar Express.”

We boarded one of the double decker train cars and went upstairs. Finding an open seat, we both collapsed on the red bench seat from the long day. Anya smiled at me and said, “Santa I certainly enjoyed our day in Boston.”

“I did as well, but I could have done without all the hustle and bustle of a big city.”

Laying her head on my shoulder, Ms. Claus responded, “I know what you mean. So many cars and trucks, honking of horns, construction noises, it was not what we are used to. One thing we did not have to worry about was anyone recognizing us. People seemed to be in such a hurry to get to their destinations that I don’t think they ever looked at us.”

“All the noise was distracting,” I said, “but I think the walking tour with Eric, the National Park Ranger, was the best. He took us into old Boston, a quieter area, and taught us a lot about Paul Revere and the American Revolution.”

“We even got to see his house,” responded Ms. Claus. Turning to face me she added, “Eric even took us to see the old North Church, where Revere instructed Robert Newman, the sexton, to hang two lanterns in the steeple so that the colonials in Charlestown would know that the British were coming across the Charles River, just in case he did not make it to warn them.”

Getting our tickets out to give to the conductor, I smiled at the recent memory. “You’re right Anya. Hearing the stories about American history is more fun when you actually see the places where they took place. We tend to forget some things as time goes on, like the fact that Revere wasn’t the only rider sent that night to warn Sam Adams and John Hancock. Eric made sure to point out that Revere was sent across the Charles River to ride from the North, and at the same time William Dawes was sent to ride from the South. Surprisingly they both arrived in Lexington about the same time.”

“However,” added Ms. Claus, “Revere never made it to Concord. According to Eric, he was captured by the soldiers who eventually released him, but took his horse. While the soldiers concentrated on the capture of Revere, Dr. Prescott, who had joined Revere and Dawes between Lexington and Concord, avoided the soldiers and continued his ride to Concord to warn the colonials.”

“That’s right!” I exclaimed. “Imagine if Prescott had not made it. Things would have turned out very differently for the colonials.”

“What I find so fascinating about history, is that when you learn all the facts, there are always several things that seem to happen at just the right time, in order for events to happen the way they did,” Ms. Claus said thoughtfully.

Just as I was about to respond, “Next stop, West Concord,” came from the train’s speakers.

“This is our stop. We will have to continue our discussion in the car,” I said as the two of us made our way off the train. Our ride was about to come to an end, but our enthusiasm for history did not.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Having A Whale of a Good Time

“Have you ever seen a whale on any of your trips Santa?” Ms. Claus asked as we approached a small pier in Gloucester where the boat Hurricane II was moored.

“I am usually in too big of a hurry to get to all the children’s homes to watch for whales when I fly over oceans; besides it is always dark out.”

Many people were boarding the 115-foot vessel in hopes of seeing sea mammals about half the size of the boat. Walking up the ramp I suggested that we go on the top deck. “I think we will be able to see the whales better from up there.”

Nodding her head in agreement, Ms. Claus started towards the back of the boat where steps led to the top deck. Once on deck we promptly found two seats on the starboard (right) side of the boat near the bridge, where the captain controlled the boat.

“Might as well get comfortable. I read where it may take about an hour just to get far enough out in the Atlantic Ocean to where the whales are,” Ms. Claus said.

As we moved out of the harbor and headed to the open sea, a fishing boat passed us heading back towards Inner Harbor. I nudged Anya and pointed to the boat, and talking loud enough to be heard over the noise of the engine and wind I said, “They obviously had a good day fishing.”

With a quizzical look, Ms. Claus asked, “How do you know that?”

“Look at all the birds flying around the boat. They smell the fish and think they are going to get fed,” I said smiling.

Shortly after that a number of people started getting excited as they saw a whale. Almost in sync with the passengers, Jamie, the education director of the crew, announced, “Off the starboard side you may have seen a Minke Whale. We are going to proceed to the Stellwagen Banks National Marine Sanctuary, where we should have better encounters with the whales.”

As we approached the sanctuary, way out in front of the boat we could see a couple of tunas jumping out of the water, dining on the mackerel that swim near the surface. Then the captain began to slow the boat. Excitement grew again as everyone on the starboard side of the boat rushed to the port side to see a Humpback whale and her baby.

Over the next hour or two we encountered several Humpback whales feeding on the mackerel. Everyone moved from side to side of the boat as whales came to the surface on both the port (left) and starboard (right) sides. Everyone cheered as we watched the whales play. I especially loved it when they turned on their sides, waved their fins in the air, and then smacked them on the water.

When four whales swimming together appeared on the port side, I managed to get a space where I could see them just off the bow (front) of the boat. Then it happened. A whale breached (jumping upward out of the water) just off the bow on the port side. Falling back into the water, the whale caused a thunderous splashing noise.

“Oh my!” Jamie exclaimed over the speakers. “We do not usually see that . . .” her voice was cut off when all the passengers gasped as another whale breached. Regaining her composure, Jamie continued, “I’m as surprised as you all are! We must have Lady Luck on our side today!”

In all we witnessed four breaches during our tour before heading back to the harbor. Settling in for the hour ride back to port, I said, “You certainly picked the right tour and the right day. It was amazing to see all those whales, especially seeing them jump out of the water!”

Walking off the boat on the pier, we thanked the crew members for a very memorable day. Holding Ms. Claus’s hand, I said, “Thank you for such a great trip. I will never fly over an ocean again without thinking about the gentle giants that live there.”

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post more about our trip 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 . . .