Well, it's not not yet Thanksgiving and Santa's at the mall. Just outside of Sears, I pause, clutching my plastic bag, to watch the scene below.
Dominating the display is the Christmas tree, of course, extending through the second floor nearly to the ceiling. In front of the tree is Santa's chair, covered in red velvet. Currently an elf sits there, chin in hand, staring out at nothing.
I can't see Santa anywhere.
Perhaps he's run to Starbucks for a cup of joe.
Every year it's the same: nutcracker soldiers guarding the tree; gigantic boxes wrapped in red and festooned with ribbons of gold; children dressed in Sunday clothes standing in line while parents cajole or smile, remembering their pasts and the way it's supposed to be. Nearby, a terrifying Jack-in-the-box grins inanely, head bobbing wildly upon its spring.
The elf suddenly rises, and brushes off his pants.
The photographer jumps to attention.
Santa has arrived.
Actually, he's been here since November 3. We saw him here last Saturday when we had to purchase a coat for our exchange student. Temperatures don't get this cold in Israel.
And as I stand watching Santa receive the little children upon his expansive lap, asking them what they want for Christmas, tensions between Gaza and Israel are escalating. Just this morning, I heard of the death of an eight month old girl in a bomb strike. I do not know if she was from Israel or Gaza. All I know is that she was a child.
All I know is that this is not the way it's supposed to be.
And while tears of the mothers and fathers rain down; while gunfire is exchanged and bombs are positioned; while my student wonders about what is going to happen, Santa calls to a child.
The photographer snaps a picture.
The parents smile.
The family disperses.
Santa's at the mall.
All is well.