Yahoo! asked former or current Santas--those of the mall or other festive location variety--to share their stories of fielding wishes from children. Here's one memory we published.
FIRST PERSON | When I was asked to fill in as a mall Santa when I was on active duty and visiting a military base mall in Germany, I never thought it was going to be difficult. I thought one just puts on the Santa costume and yells, "Ho, ho, ho!" along with, "What would you like for Christmas?"
I was wrong.
When a fellow GI-turned-volunteer-Santa suddenly became ill, I offered to take his place. I then put on the pillow around my belly before donning the full Santa suit, black boots and all.
It was a real blast for about 10 minutes. That was until the first child approached me, as I sat in Santa's chair with a bag of gifts at my side. Each gift was marked something like "boy, age 10-12," or "girl, age 8-10." Finding the right gift after these kids shared their wants for Christmas was the easy part.
However, the difficult role for me as this accidental Santa was listening to the kid's stories. After all, these were children of active-duty military members stationed overseas. Although the location was Germany -- and Germany is stunningly wonderful in the snow and during Christmas -- it was still away from home. Thus, many of the kids who spoke to me as Santa said they wished they could visit their grandma or another relative.
At the same time, this drive down memory lane for these military kids was bittersweet since many of their moms and dads were away from home at their base and deployed to some "hot spot" in the Middle East or elsewhere. Thus, it was hard for any overseas mall Santa to bring comfort to these kids who were simply afraid for their parents in harm's way.
So, today, whenever I look at the typical mall Santa, I flash back to that one day when I volunteered as a mall Santa in a very different sort of North Pole at an Army base in Germany.