Zuzu poked at the dry savannah with a stick. A little cloud of reddish dirt was swept up in the hot air and blown out toward the edges of her village. The drought was bad this year and the ground was parched. Zuzu shooed a cloud of flies away and continued poking at the dry Earth. She was feeling sad after hearing the Christian missionary teacher talk about someone named Santa.
She was with the other eight year old girls by the church earlier that day. They were making friendship bracelets like Miss Karen had shown them in art class. She was also waiting for her little brother who was in class with Miss Nancy. It was her job to make sure her bother went to class twice a week. She decided to peek in through the door to see how much longer they would be, she still had chores to do at home. That was when she heard Miss Nancy mention how this Santa man would bring presents to all the world’s children if they were good. Miss Nancy was talking to the six year olds, telling them that if they followed God’s word and were good or did good deeds then Santa would put their name on the nice list and come December 25th, they would have presents from Santa. But if they were naughty and did bad things in the eyes of God, then Santa would not bring them anything but a black rock.
This was a revelation. This Santa man could know if children all over the world were being good or bad and had the power to bring presents or not. Apparently this Santa man lived up north and rode some thing called a sleigh and was magic. Zuzu didn’t know what a sleigh was but she imagined it was something like the chariots she had seen painted on her father’s ceremonial shield. It was simply too good to be believed.
She quickly told the other girls what she had just overheard and they laughed at her. The other girls had heard of this Santa man and they had never seen him before. It was just another story the missionaries told to scare the children. Zuzu wanted to believe though. She was so good, taking care of her brother and cleaning for her mother and getting food for her ailing father. She was a very good girl and she was certain she would be on the nice list that Miss Nancy had described.
When her brother got out of class she asked him what else Miss Nancy had told them about the Santa man. Adame said the Santa man would come during the night when everyone was asleep and come down the chimney and put toys made by little elf monsters under a tree that was growing inside the house. She asked if Adame was sure about that since they had neither a chimney nor a tree growing in the house. Adame said that was Miss Nancy had told his class.
Zuzu walked her brother home without asking anymore about the Santa man. She thought she would ask her mother why they never heard of this before and why they didn’t have a chimney or a tree in the house. When they got home though her mother was too busy making dinner and couldn’t be bothered with Zuzu’s silly questions. She had water to fetch from the pump and that line would be long.
Zuzu continued poking at the dirt with a stick while waiting for her turn at the water pump. She was trying not to be upset about the Santa man. Why hadn’t he visited them before? Why wasn’t she on the nice list? Why was she just hearing about this? She sat there for a long while until her father came along looking for her.
“What is taking so long with the water”, asked Zuzu’s father.
“There is a line”, she replied.
Zuzu’s father looked over at the pump and there was no line. He looked back at Zuzu as she sat on the ground, still poking at the dirt. He sat down next to her and asked her if she was alright.
“Yes father”, she said with a slight sniffle.
“Adame told us of his day in class today”, said her father.
Zuzu shrugged and wiped her nose on her arm.
“I had heard of the Santa Claus too”, said her father.
Zuzu looked up at her father and met his sparkling eyes. His eyes were always so bright, twinkling in the late dusky sun.
“I was about Adame’s age when the missionaries told us about the magical Santa Claus and Christmas. A day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with gifts from a jolly fat white man”, said Zuzu’s father.
“Why haven’t we seen the Santa man? Why has he never been to visit us”, asked Zuzu.
Zuzu’s father took a deep breath and put his arm around his small daughter and pulled her closer.
“The world is a very large place. There are many people that live on the world and they all believe in things that cannot be seen with the eye. We believe that your ancestors fought the great lion and tamed the wild dog but none of us were there to see it. It is a legend that gives us strength in the present to carry on and do the best we can with what we have”, said Zuzu’s father.
Zuzu looked at her father, not understanding what he was trying to say. He cleared his throat and continued.
“This Santa, he is legend. He was made to encourage people to be nice and good in honor of Jesus’ birthday. You are a good girl and you do not need a fat white man to bring you presents to prove it. You’re mama and I love you very much and you and your brother were the best presents we could have ever received. No jolly fat white man brought you to us”, he said.
Zuzu looked at her father and dropped the stick to the ground, threw her arms around his neck and hugged him
“Now, let’s get the water before your mama gets mad”, smiled her father.