Over the weekend, we took Cava to see the Santa Claus at our local mall. Yes, I know it's not even Thanksgiving, but this was something Cava has really, really been wanting to do and kept pestering us to take him. Since we were at the mall buying some long sleeve shirts for Benjamin (who'd outgrown all of his from last year), we saw that Santa was going to be there at 2 pm, so we shopped for a bit and Cava kept asking us over and over what time it was, in the hopes it was time to go see the big man. When it finally got close to 2 pm, we headed over to Santa's workshop in the center of the mall.
Cava was ecstatic. Think of a Ukrainian version of Buddy the Elf when Buddy hears Santa is coming to Gimbels. The only difference being that Cava didn't say, "I know him."
We got in line, Cava was unable to stand still with all his nervous energy. He kept looking forward and counting how many kids were ahead of him. Finally, his turn came and he shyly approached Santa and sat down next to him. Santa asked Cava his name and then asked if he'd been a good boy. Cava answered honestly with, "Most of the time."
When Santa asked him what he wanted for Christmas, Cava replied, "A remote control airplane, some Spider-man stickers, and a Spider-man book." He received his candy cane from Santa and, since I was not about to pay $45 dollars for a photo session with Santa, I let Benjamin have my smart phone so he could secretly take one. Santa's helpers tended to block adults with smart phones whenever they tried taking one of their kids or grand-kids (No, I'm not joking).
Later, when I asked Cava about it and was asking him about what he knew about Father Frost, which is what they call Santa in Ukraine, he asked me, "How come Father Frost never visited me when I was there?"
This question broke my heart because it showed the deep wound of neglect that he feels. Santa not coming to the orphanage was yet another sign to him that he wasn't special or that he mattered there. I wish I could have come up with a better answer than the one I gave him, "I don't know, Cava, but don't you worry, Santa will most definitely visit you this year."
"I like it better here," he told me.
"Well, I'm glad to hear that," I said.
"Yeah, Santa's much better than Father Frost."
One thing we hope to do this Christmas is incorporate Ukrainian Christmas traditions into our own.