Emily G. was six years old when her mother died of cancer just before Christmas. It was a tough year after that, but her father thought they were doing pretty well by the next December. He offered to take her to see Santa at the mall then smiled inwardly when his sweet little Emily did an eye roll and rejected the fantasy. That night, after he tucked her in bed and left her room, he heard her bed creak and he wondered if she was getting back up to retrieve one or another of her stuffed animals. He waited, listened, and heard her precious little voice start to repeat the “wish upon a star” rhyme that his wife had taught her. He crept back closer to the door and peeked in. Emily’s cheek was pressed to the window glass and she was just finishing the rhyme, “I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight”. There was a little pause during which the anxious dad hoped to hear her wish for some toy or game that he could get her and tag it from Santa.
“I wish I could see Mommy one more time,” was what he heard. It broke his heart.
He lay awake that night and an idea came to him. It took a bit of planning, a picture, an internet ad and his wife’s winter coat and hat that fortunately he hadn’t yet given away. The plan came together three days before Christmas.
“Let’s take a little shopping break and do some people watching,” he said to Emily as they approached the sunken seating area near one of the major department stores at the mall. They found an empty spot facing the concourse and began to play a little guessing game about the people heading for the escalator.
Emily found this imaginative game easy. “Oh, daddy, look, see that man? I think he’s a fireman.”
“How can you tell?”
“He’s carrying his packages over his shoulder.”
“Good, Emily. Hmm, see any princesses or ballerinas?”
Emily scanned the frantic shoppers and saw a lady laden with packages. She had the same coat and hat as her mother, the same hair, but she was holding a tall package that somewhat obscured her face. Emily got very still and didn’t speak. She watched the woman get on the escalator and adjust her boxes. Emily hardly breathed.
Her dad looked away from the woman and glanced down at his daughter whose face registered a sort of quiet surprise. He continued to watch her though his eyes got watery. He had to blink fast so as not to miss the joyful wonder and peaceful smile that spread across Emily’s face. He knew the woman must be looking at them by now, revealing a smile, waving at Emily, leaving the empty prop boxes at the top of the escalator. The lady was supposed to walk a few steps and do a little twirl, so like Emily’s mother, and then turn the corner with one last wave.
Emily stared a bit longer, expecting to see that special someone return for the packages. She glanced to the escalator, but the packages were gone, secretly retrieved by a collaborator. She looked up at her dad who seemed not to have seen the woman at all.
“Okay, pumpkin?” he asked. “Anything you wish to do?”
Emily looked back up to the second level and whispered, “I got my wish.”###
Copyright 2011 by Debra Chapoton