By Samuel Oluwatobi Olatunji
She has vowed to wait and meet Santa Claus this time – no going out, no sleeping, and no leaving the sitting room. Her dream must break forth into reality; she is tired of waiting. Since Odun was two, she has been dreaming of meeting Santa Claus. She has been awaiting the day she will look into Santa Claus's eyes to see the colour of his eyeballs. She wants to pass her fingers like a comb through his fluffy white beard. She also wants to put her ear on his stomach to know if there are coins jingling therein. Or maybe notes. She imagines he vomits money like an unbridled ATM for him to be able to purchase so many gifts that he distributes. She wants to feel the tenderness in his palms too.
She has waited for six years, but something always happened that would be the reason she could not see Santa Claus. Last year and the one before, she fell asleep. That was her parents' justification for her not seeing him. When she asked her parents why they did not wake her, they claimed Santa Claus restrained them, saying he does not like disturbing children sleeping on Christmas day. Why is Santa Claus avoiding me, she wonders.
Today, another Christmas day, she is determined to see Santa Claus. I must see him today, she keeps confessing to herself and anyone who cares to listen. After she had heard Aunty Ayo talking about a girl that was drugged and raped in a nightclub, Odun began to suspect her parents – she suspects they had given her sleeping pills last two Christmas. So, she has refused to eat or drink until she sees Santa Claus. This resolution has not just brought a great worry to her parents' faces and hearts, it has also brought their fingers to their hair, which they are giving a good scratch, thinking about how to resolve the issue on ground.
Odun sits on the gold-coloured settee, eyes glued to the TV, ears alert to any jingle from outside. Today na today, her parents rack their brain, wondering how to handle this starving, stubborn child of theirs. And Odun is too innocent to pity them or understand their plight.
At about 11am, the Santa Claus she has been expecting appears. An average height clad in his Christmas attire with a bag of gifts appears at the doorpost. The only problem with this Santa Claus is that it has a chocolate-coloured skin unlike the ones she has been seeing in her storybooks and Christmas posters.
"Here comes your Santa Claus, sweetheart," her mum announces, bowing and pointing her two hands at him as if she wants to receive a gift from him.
"But why is he black, mum?"
"Oh, Santa Claus has the unique gift of a chameleon. That is, if he is in America, he is white; if he is in Africa, he is black; if he is in India, he is red. Like that, like that. Am I right, Santa Claus?"
“Yes, ma’am,” Santa Claus bows as he replies her, still smiling like he does not know how to frown at all.
"Wow, that's amazing!" She runs towards the standing smiling Santa Claus, and gives him a big hug as if she wants to swallow him with her thin, tender hands.
"Welcome, my hero! At last, my dream has come true! I am now the happiest girl on earth!" She screams as she drags him to the settee. After sitting, Santa Claus brings out a gift and gives it to her.
"Merry Christmas, Odun." The words flow out of his mouth via the shiny canoe of the smile etched on his face.
"Thank you, Santa Claus, I love you! But how do you know my name?"
"Oh, your mum told me. She also told me you have refused to eat, and I would love you to eat now, and be a good girl. Do you understand?" He says, touching her cheeks.
"Now that I have seen you, I will eat. In fact, I can eat the whole food cooked by everyone celebrating Christmas today."
"Anyway, I have to leave now. I have other houses to go to." He says after glancing at the wall clock, ticking a few feet away, opposite them.
"Oh, not so fast! I have wanted to look into your eyes, touch your beard, put my ear on your stomach and give my hands to you so I can feel the tenderness in your palm. So can you please allow me to complete my dream?"
"No problem. You have sixty seconds, Odun."
She peeps into his eyes as if her eyes are a microscope searching for a tiny organism somewhere in the orbs of this Santa Claus.
"Your eyes are the same colour as my dad’s. And where is dad, mum?" She turns to face her mum, who has been struggling to stifle a sea of laughter surging in her.
"I think he must have gone out to get some Christmas decorations. He will soon be back, sweetheart."
Odun then continues to fulfil her dream. She lifts her right hand until her palm touches Santa Claus's bushy cheeks. She feels as if she is waving her hand deep into the sky. She closes her eyes as she caresses his beard.
Then somewhere deep inside of her, a naughty voice tells her to pull the beard to confirm how real her dream is. She grabs the beard firmly, and before Santa Claus can restrain her, she pulls the beard, and the beard obeys her gravitational pull. And the Santa Claus's face becomes that of her beloved father.
Her mum releases the laughter into the Christmas air. Her father becomes infected with the laughter flu, and his bass laughter creates a gentle vibration. Although, Odun seems surprised and annoyed, she cannot help it but to be infected with the laughter so thick in the air. She laughs too, louder than everyone does.