Watched From Above
‚I wonder if I'm getting old', the man with the many names thought. He was known as Weihnachtsmann, Papa Noël, Joulupukki or Sinterklaas but in this part of the world he was called Santa Claus. The names changed, but the anticipation in children's eyes was the same everywhere in the world. Luckily he had up until the 6th of January to distribute gifts to countless children. He could never accomplish that amazing feat in just in one night.
But surely he must have made a mistake. He looked once more at his list. It was the year 1995, and right, there was the name: "Charlie O'Neill". He had a new baseball glove in his sack for him. But the house where he was standing before looked odd and cold. It was as if for a long time it had not heard the sound of a child's laugh.
Santa Claus looked carefully through the window. In one corner stood a Christmas-tree, but its lights were out. And the room was barely lit. At the table sat a man and a woman, silent. The woman looked as if she had been crying.
Santa Claus watched with growing anxiety through the window. He remembered very well Christmas one year ago when he had found a happy family there. The little boy couldn't sleep because of the excitement and repeatedly came down the stairs. Eventually his father shepherded him to the bed, covered him up and told him that Santa Claus only would come when he was asleep. That convinced the little boy and he finally closed his eyes. His father sat a while longer at his bedside before going downstairs where he embraced his wife and gave her a kiss.
But that was last year. This year the same man jumped up abruptly, took his jacket and mumbled as he walked out, "I can't stay here, Sara. I can't breathe." Santa Claus pressed himself against the house so the man wouldn't see him. But he simply went away, obviously lost into his thoughts.
Santa Claus sighed, then crossed out the name ‚Charlie O'Neill' on his list. He could sense that something was terribly wrong. But he would have to find out later what happened. Tonight he had so much work to do.
A few hours later in the town with the very odd pentagonal building (who could understand the crazy things people were building these days?), he took a little rest. He had made good progress on his route and so he had time to observe the young blonde woman who he knew since her childhood. Little Samantha held his memory because she had different wishes than most girls her age. She didn't want Barbie's, asking instead for things like a microscope or a chemistry set.
These were things he normally gave away to little boys, but he was a progressive donator, not like the old chauvinistic guy who had had the job before. And Samantha was such a lovely little girl that he willingly fulfilled all of her wishes. Until she thought she was too old to believe in him.
Still, every year he looked in to see how she was doing. He hoped that she was happy, she always seemed to be too serious. Her family always seemed to be separated, her father dedicated to the military, her brother estranged after a series of arguments.
And right now she was any thing but happy. She paced the floor with the phone to her ear. "You promised, dad! Can't wait it until tomorrow?" She fell silent and listened. Eventually her anger gave way to resignation.
„Yes, of course I understand. I always do, right? See you tomorrow, dad." She hung up and sat at the table and opened her laptop. Santa Claus watched a little longer and saw a ring with odd symbols on the screen. He would have liked to stay longer, but duty called.
So he hopped into his sleigh and flew to the big town with the huge buildings. But often these modern buildings didn't have chimneys and he had to pull himself through the littlest fissures and crevices. It was very difficult, and for the hundred time he promised to lose weight next year.
Some hours later he took a well-deserved short rest with his reindeer on a roof. He looked through a window at the young man with the long hair and the glasses who was reading in a book. He wore a thick pullover, obviously there wasn't much warmth in his apartment. Now and then he rubbed his hands together to warm them.
Steam rose from a mug placed on the table next to the man. The only evidence of Christmas in the cluttered room was a vase that contained a spray of evergreen boughs decorated with a few red ornaments. Yet Santa detected more spirit of the holiday here than at some of the grandest displays he had visited throughout the night.
Still Santa Claus wished that the young man had someone to spend the night with. Nobody should be alone at Christmas Eve. As he delivered gifts in the building, he stopped and looked at the name on the man's door: Daniel Jackson. Maybe he could arrange something…
With renewed strength he got on his way again and as the dawn was breaking, he filled the last of the stockings and put the remaining presents under the Christmas-tree. Now he was finished and he considered it a job well done. Tired, he flew home but all he thought about on the long way home were the three particularly lonely people he had seen tonight.
He sighed. There were too many people in this world to help each and every one, but these three were something special he sensed. He made a note in his datebook. Next year he would look them up again to see how they were doing.
One year later
The man in the red costume with the white beard was always surprised how fast the year went by. There never was time enough for all the things he wanted to do. He had his kindly colleagues to help him, the German Christkind and the Russian Djed Moros which meant Daddy Frost and his little Snegurotschka, the snowflake. And yet Christmas 1996 arrived too quickly.
He chided himself for not taking the time to check up on the three special people as he had promised. Now he feared what he would find.
So, for that reason, he started from the opposite end of his usual route. He came first into the town with the tall towers and landed on the roof of the apartment house where Daniel Jackson lived. The room now seemed to be unoccupied being filled only with things. Who could guess where the former occupant was?
Santa Claus put these dark thoughts aside and worked on his gift-list. But this didn't make him glad, either. Where were the times when he could have made children happy with a teddy bear or a ball? But today it had to be the newest computer game and the fastest computer, too.
And with clothes he had also to be extremely careful, because too often the children whined, „No way, I'm not wearing this, it's so not cool!"
He sighed again. Maybe he was too old for this job after all and should look for a quiet little place and retire. But then he remembered his promise to find Samantha.
Off he flew to the town with the pentagonal building, but now an older couple lived in Samantha's house. Obviously she had moved again. Now, the night was still young, and he knew he would find her sooner or later.
Hours later he eventually came into the town with the big mountain, making it the last on his list. Slowly he neared the house where Charlie O'Neill once had lived. Santa knew what happened and he asked himself how the parents had coped with it.
Just like the last time he looked carefully through the window. This time the Christmas-tree was festively lit and the house seemed cheerful. What a difference a few candles could make! Charlie's mother gave a gift to the man near her. But something didn't seem to fit. This man wasn't Charlie's father.
„Merry Christmas, dad!", the woman said now and as the man turned around Santa Claus could see that he was much older than her. He hadn't expected this but he felt relieved that she wasn't alone this evening. There now only was the question where Charlie's father was.
Just as he almost gave up hope, he found him. At the house that used to belong to an older woman who had passed away during the year. Not only was Jack O'Neill there, but the whole house was filled with conversation punctuated with laughter.
Santa Claus held his breath. There was Samantha Carter, looking like she belonged there. She was talking to Daniel Jackson, the lonely man from the apartment house. Santa Claus was relieved. They had somehow found each other without his help.
Then he let his eyes wander around the room and detected more guests. A little girl had just dragged a tall black man with an odd tattoo to the table from the corner where he had been standing. There sat a woman who he knew was Janet Fraiser. He heard her call the little girl's name and the girl call her "Mom". But she never had a daughter before! Surely he hadn't overlooked a child, had he? He looked at his list again. No, there wasn't a Cassandra Fraiser. He immediately corrected it.
After he scrawled the name he rummaged in his sack. But he didn't find much more than a few trinkets and some cookies. He put the little offering onto the window-sill where he was certain she would find it. Then he quietly withdrew. He did not want to disturb them as they all gathered around the table to eat their turkey dinner together.
Santa Claus gave a last look over the people gathered in this home. He saw lonely people no longer, but a family where everyone cared for one another. He dwelt a longer moment on Jack O'Neill. Although grief would never be completely erased from the man's face, today he looked happy and content. What a change from last year! Santa felt suddenly light and glad.
It hadn't been a bad year after all.