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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

an alternative christmas

Back by popular demand -- Here is Angela Orlando's newly revised
Christmas story. Feel free to share with others



An Alternative Christmas

What if Santa Claus was Deaf-Blind?



Christmas is almost here. The air is full of joy and cheer.
Children await that magical night, when Santa will fly in his
enchanted sleigh. Then it's Christmas day... The most wonderful
day of the year...

Now imagine an alternative Christmas. What if Santa Claus was
deaf-blind? What would Christmas be like then?

*****

First you may be wondering -- How could a deaf-blind elf become
Santa Claus? Of course, this isn't the type of work an elf can
apply for. It's more like royalty. Santa's eldest son was born as
Randy Claus. Every elf knew it was his destiny to follow in his
father's foot-steps. One day in the far future, he would become
Santa Claus.

When Randy was only a tiny elf, Santa and his wife discovered
that he couldn't hear. They were saddened, indeed. But Santa
believed in his young son and encouraged him to grow up just like
any other elf.

Young Randy Claus learned sign language, as did his parents and
many other elf families. He found acceptance in a community that
was willing to learn his language. He never felt that he was
different from the other elf children. Randy couldn't hear, but
he could do everything his friends did.

It's important to remember that the North Pole is a land in which
differences are celebrated. After all, Rudolph was born with an
unusual nose. Yet, he became the most famous reindeer of all.

Santa also encouraged Randy to learn to speak and read lips. He
wanted to be sure that Randy could one day say "Ho, Ho, Ho" and
"Merry Christmas!"

Young Randy did quite well with his speech lessons. It helped
that he was still permitted to sign. He was not being denied one
language in favor of another. Instead, Randy would grow up as a
bilingual elf.

But he did complain to his father, "How am I supposed to read
your lips when they are completely covered by your long beard and
mustache?"

Santa chuckled and gave his son a hug. "I will always sign to
you, Randy. You won't miss a word I say."

*****

A horrible tragedy happened when Randy Claus was only 20 years
old. His father was attempting to train a spirited young reindeer
to serve as an alternate on his team.

Rudolph and Dasher were excused from practice, while Starburst
flew with the other reindeer. Santa called orders to Starburst,
but the new reindeer wouldn't listen. He crossed Dancer's path
and pulled the team off course. With a tremendous "boom," they
crashed into Toy House B.

When the Rescue Elves arrived on the scene, they set their eyes
upon the most horrible sight. The sleigh was twisted and wedged
against a toy shelf. Santa was trapped underneath. Ruined toys
were thrown all about. Starburst, three other reindeer and six
elves were injured. The Rescue Elves did everything they could.
They managed to save the reindeer team, but Santa was gravely
wounded.

Randy dashed to his father's side. With tears streaming down his
face, poor Randy screamed into the silent night, "Please don't
die, Daddy! Please don't leave me!"

Santa smiled at his son. He lifted his arms and signed his last
words, "I believe in you Randy. You can do it!"

Santa began to glow. The golden light grew brighter. The nearby
elves could barely see what was happening.

Randy was aware, however. He stood calmly as the light surrounded
his body. It seemed to pass through his skin. He felt a warm
sensation in his heart, and realized he now possessed the spirit
of Christmas. When the light faded completely into Randy's body,
Santa Claus was gone.

*****


After a heartbreaking memorial, Randy was crowned as Santa Claus.
He would now take on his father's name, and that of his
grandfather and many elves before him.. This new Santa Claus had
much work to do. First, he needed to see to the repairs of Toy
House B. New elves were assigned to replace the injured. They
worked overtime to rebuild all the damaged toys.

Santa oversaw the recovery of his reindeer. He made sure they
attended their physical therapy sessions. Reindeer games were
cancelled until all were well again.

Most importantly, he needed to work on himself. Randy Claus was a
young elf, tall and thin, with spiky white hair. Now he needed to
become Santa. He ate and ate, until his belly bulged. And still
he ate some more.

The Barber Elf applied daily doses of magic hair growth formula.
Soon enough, Santa was plump and fat, a right jolly old elf.

He practiced his "Ho, Ho, Ho" and "Merry Christmas!" His two
favorite elf girls were assigned as his interpreters. If Santa
couldn't understand a child's Christmas wish, Olive and Shan were
there to sign to him.

Finally, it was Santa's first Christmas. His reindeer team was
ready. Olive and Shan rode with him in the sleigh. Santa gave a
sharp whistle, and his team took off into the night. Against all
odd's, Christmas was perfect.

*****

Sadly, Santa would face more challenges. He was in his 30's when
he began tripping over bundles of toys. Once, he plowed over a
Messenger Elf. He found it hard to guide his sleigh at night.

"What is going on?" the elves asked. "What is wrong with Santa
Claus?"

Olive and Shan decided to confront him. "Santa," said Olive, "I
see you squint when you read my signs."

Shan added, "You grab my arm when it's dark outside."

Santa didn't like where this conversation was headed. He could
not admit to what he knew was true.

"I love you, Santa," Olive said, "And so do all the other elves."

"Plus all the human children in the world," said Shan.

"And most of the adults," Olive persisted. "You are Santa Claus.
You are Christmas. You must deal with this!"

With his new wife, Mrs. Claus, and Olive and Shan trailing
behind, Santa Claus finally went to see the Vision Elf. The
diagnosis was not good. "I'm sorry, dear Santa Claus," said the
sweet Vision Elf. "You have a disease the humans call Usher
Syndrome. You will gradually lose your peripheral vision and
suffer from night blindness."

Santa began to weep. "I'm deaf!," he cried. "I can't be blind,
too. I just can't!"

*****

For many months, Santa secluded himself in his bedroom. Mrs.
Claus was the on elf allowed in. She tried to get him to eat, but
he refused. As his depression deepened, the Christmas magic of
the North Pole began to weaken. Rumors of doom were passed along
by elf to elf to reindeer. "Christmas will be canceled.," they
whispered.

Other elves speculated that Santa's younger brother would have to
take over. Never before had Santa Claus stepped down. But
obviously, this Santa was no longer fit for the job.

One day, Olive and Shan took a risky ride on Dasher's back. It
was only June. They weren't allowed into the human world during
the off season, but they had to find a way to help Santa Claus.

They rode through the night, using their diminishing magic
detected a special child. At last, they found what they were
looking for in America. The little girl was thrilled to be
visited by two elves and a reindeer. Although they were breaking
even more rules, the elves invited her to the North Pole.

*****

Little Amy Nicholas was only six years old. Like every young
girl, she loved baby dolls, pretty clothes and helping her mother
in the kitchen. Yet, she didn't speak in words. Her eyes were
cloudy white. She put her two small hands in front of her and
trudged out and about. Amy Nicholas was special because she was
deaf-blind.

Although Santa muttered and protested, he allowed Mrs. Claus to
pull him out to his favorite chair in front of the livingroom
fire. He didn't look much like Santa now. He was thin and gaunt,,
with tangled hair and a wild beard. He insisted on dressing in
black fur. He was moody and snapped at any elf who came near
him. He certainly was no longer a jolly old elf.

Olive and Shan gently guide little Amy into the room. "What do
you want?," Santa bellowed.

Amy didn't react. She was grinning ear to ear in anticipation of
meeting Santa Claus."

Olive stood close to Santa, where the light was best. She began
to sign, "Santa Claus, we bring you a visitor."

Santa squinted and looked around. He could barely make out the
form of a small person standing beside Shan. He sniffed the air
and growled with fury. "A human?," he snarled. "You dare to
bring a human to the North Pole!"

Shan protectively placed her arms around Amy, while Olive
continued signing to Santa.

"She is a special human child, Santa. It's important that you
meet her."

Santa was still angry. "I will not meet a stinking human child!
Now go away!," he roared.

Amy began to tremble. Although she couldn't hear what Santa was
saying, she somehow sensed the tension in the room. Mrs. Claus
tried to calm Santa. She kneeled in front of him and signed,
"Please, my love, I do not ask much of you, but please meet this
little girl."

Even in his depressed state, Santa Claus could not deny her plea.

"Fine," he grumbled, "Bring her here. Just keep her off my lap."

Shan got a chair and placed it very close to Santa. She added a
large pillow and placed Amy onto the chair. Amy imitatively
reached out with her hands, as if to grab Santa.

"What is this?," Santa cried out. He pulled his arms away from
Amy.

"Let her touch you," Mrs. Claus said. "Look at her face, my
dear."

Santa slowly lowered his arms and let Amy take his hands. He
closely examined her face. The light was good, and he could see
her milky white eyes. He also noticed her huge smile and cute
dimples.

Amy began moving her small hands under his big hands. Suddenly,
he exclaimed in shock.

"Ho!," he yelled. "I felt her speak with my hands!"

She certainly was talking, although she never spoke aloud. "My
name is Amy," she signed, "I love you, Santa Claus. Will you be
my friend?"

Santa was bewildered. He had no clue what to do.

"Sign into her hands, just like she did to you," Olive prompted.

Santa felt awkward, but he did as she said. "Hello, Amy. Have you
been a good little girl?"

Amy giggled, and Santa could see the glee on her face. "It's only
June," she signed, "I don't have to be good."

In spite of himself, Santa laughed. He began to understand that
Amy was deaf and blind. But somehow she seemed so normal and
happy.

"You are different from other children, yet you feel joy and
love, as they do. How can that be?" Santa asked her.

"I am just me," Amy signed. "I'm happy because I want to be."

As Olive, Shan and Mrs. Claus watched, they saw Santa's eyes fill
with wonder. His cheeks regain their healthy pink glow. Best of
all, he was smiling and laughing.

"I know it's not Christmas yet," Amy said with her hands, "But I
do have a special wish."

Santa lifted her into his lap and gave her a hug. "It might not
be Christmas yet," he signed to her, "But I can tell you've been
a very nice girl. What is your wish?"

He thought he knew what she would say. Of course this little girl
wanted to be able to hear and see, just like he did. His heart
felt heavy. This was not a gift he could provide.

"I want to meet Rudolph. I want to soar through the sky on his
back," Amy said.

Once more, Santa was surprised. He shook his head in confusion,
and then spoke to Amy again. "It would be my pleasure for you to
ride on Rudolph's back. And when Christmas time arrives, we will
visit your house in America..."

"With a sleigh full of toys!," Amy interrupted."

"That's right," he said, and gave her a kiss on the top of her
head.

Amy reached up with her tiny hands to feels Santa's face. "Oh,
Santa," she said., "You are too skinny and your hair is crazy.
Eat, eat, eat!"

Santa let out a jolly laugh. His eyes sparkled with life.

"I will, little Amy Nicholas. Good bye, my friend. Happy June!"

*****

Santa assigned two elves to take Amy home on Rudolf's back. He
would have gone with her, but there was far too much to be done.

"Olive! Shan!," he called. "Summon all the elves and reindeer to
Christmas Square. I will be there soon."

He looked at Mrs. Claus and said, "My dear, I can't go out
looking like this."

Mrs. Claus was ready. After all, it had long been her duty to
keep Santa in fit form.

After he bathed, Mrs. Claus use her magic scissors and comb to
cut his wild hair and trim his bear.. He was too thin for his
traditional red suit, but she managed to find something in green
with a matching cap.

"Santa," she said, "It is bright out in the snow. The glare will
bother your eyes. Here, wear these."

She handed him a pair of dark sunglasses. The sides were
decorated with white and red gems. "So you always shine," she
added.

He was all ready for business. Shan took his right arm and guided
him out to Christmas Square. Depending on someone else to find
his way around made him nervous. Yet he walked with a steady
stride and kept his head held high. Christmas was his. He would
make it happen no matter what.

Shan led him up the steps on to the platform that over looked
Christmas Square. It was from here that Santa always directed his
elves and reindeer on preparations for Christmas.

When the elves saw Santa, they began to cheer and wave their
arms. Of course, Santa couldn't see them, so Olive described the
scene and told Santa what was going on.

"Thank you, my loyal elves," he bellowed. "We must prepare for
Christmas. We are already two months behind schedule."

He began assigning tasks. The Toy Makers were to start work
imitatively. The reindeer needed to get back in shape and
practice sleigh maneuver. The Watch Elves would secretly check-in
on the human children and begin taking notes. He would need to
know who was naughty and who was nice.

As he spoke, he waved his hands swiftly above the crowd. Wisps of
green, red and white began to circle overhead. Sparkles of gold
and silver fell to the ground below. All around, elves and
reindeer felt the return of Christmas magic. This was a gift
that only Santa Claus could bestow. They now knew for sure that
Santa was back.

*****

The next morning, Santa was enjoying his breakfast of scrambled
eggs, pancakes, bacon and six reindeer shaped cookies with gum
drops for noses. (He saved the red one for last.) There was a
knock at the door. Mrs. Claus announced the arrival of Olive,
Shan and another elf who she did not know.

The strange elf was heavy-set, with bright blue hair that fell to
his shoulders. He wore a blue and yellow Hawaiian shirt and
yellow boots. He certainly did not look like a regular elf.

The newcomer plodded over to Santa and signed close to his face.
"I'm Knisely," he said. "They call me the Rehab Elf. I'll be
teaching you how to adjust and overcome the challenges you now
face."

Santa gulped. He was nervous and wasn't sure he trusted this odd
looking elf.

Knisely took his arm and began to pull. "We are going outside.
Don't forget your sunglasses.

Once they were out in the snow, Knisely handed Santa what looked
like a giant candy cane. It was painted with blue and yellow
stripes.

"This is your guide cane, Santa. It will help you "see" what your
eyes miss," Knisely signed.

"Why is it blue and yellow?," Santa asked.

The Rehab Elf chuckled. "I've lived in the North Pole my entire
life. One gets tired of all that red and green. Now let's begin!"

Knisely instructed Santa on how to hold and move the cane.
"Remember," he said, "nice and gentle."

Santa gave it a try. He walked fast and swung the cane wildly
about. Suddenly, he felt the cane hit something big. Knisely
gasped in horror. Santa had struck an old elf in the behind and
sent her sprawling head first into a snow drift. Luckily, the elf
was not injured, although she clearly wasn't happy. Knisely
quickly guided Santa away.

"What's on your schedule for today?," Knisely asked.

"I must check on my reindeer team," he replied.

Santa continued to practice walking with the blue and yellow
cane. Knisely stopped him often, reminding him to slow down and
swing the cane gently."

When they reached the training field, Santa was once again
thrashing the cane in the air. The reindeer all fled, while the
coach angrily stormed toward Santa. Knisely thought fast. "Let's
try a different task," he said, glancing at the furious look on
the coach's face.

They began to trudge the other way. "Keep the cane on the
ground," knisely told Santa. "You are going to miss things --
like that big pile of..."

It was too late. Santa grunted as he felt his boot sink into a
load of reindeer droppings.

*****

As the months passed, Santa Claus continued to work with Knisely
to improve his independent living and mobility skills. He became
a whiz at tactile sign language and encouraged other elves to
communicate directly to him using this method. He learned how to
find the right colored fur suit, and how to identify toys by
touch. Santa even baked a batch of cookies, because Knisely
insisted he needed to know how to cook. Santa complain the entire
time, but he did it, and the blue and yellow iced sugar cookies
tasted great.

Despite hours and hours of hard work, Santa was no better at
using his guide cane. Elves ran the other way when they saw him
coming. Toy Maker Elves closely guarded their creations when
Santa inspected the Toy Houses. Knisely, who now wore blue shin
pads, just shook his head and told Santa to keep practicing.

One day in mid-December, Santa went outside to find a trio of
Science Elves waiting for him. They seemed out of place wearing
white lab coats and thick glasses.

A tall, wiry elf stepped forward. "Sir," he said in his squeaky
voice,, "My name is Snaz. I desperately need to talk to you."

When Santa nodded, Snaz continued his speech

"We Science Elves couldn't help but notice the difficulty you are
having with that cane. I have been tinkering in the lab... Some
experimenting with DNA... A hybrid, you might say..."

His voice droned on as Olive interpreted. Even she was having
trouble keeping up. No one ever seem to understand what Snaz was
talking about.

Santa clapped his hands. "What are you saying, Snaz? Do you have
a cure for me?"

Snaz bowed his head in genuine sorrow. "I wish, my Christmas
king," he said. "But even Science is lacking that answer. I do
have something that might help."

Snaz snapped his fingers, and his fellow Science Elves came
forward. They were leading something over to Santa. He squinted
in confusion. It was an animal of some sort. Olive tried to
describe it, but she was clueless, too.

Snaz noticed their bewilderment. "Err... Perhaps I need to
explain. I got the idea from the humans, actually. A mere dog
would not be suited for you, Santa. A specially trained reindeer
would be too big. So I created a mix."

"A mix of what? For what?," Santa asked.

Snaz tried again. "You are much too busy to be struggling with
that cane. I created you the greatest guide. He's part Labrador
and part reindeer, with a bit of magic thrown in. He'll lead you
anywhere."

Santa stepped closer to look at the creature. It was white with
red stripes and had little buds of reindeer horns. It was
furiously wagging a long, bushy tail at Santa. The animal had
big brown eyes and floppy ears. Santa didn't know what this thing
was, but it sure was cute.

"He's the perfect height for you," Snaz continued.. "Just take
the harness and tell him where you want to go."

Santa picked up the harness. It did feel good in his hand. He
reached down to stroke the creature, then jumped back. It was
glowing. All of the white fur from head to tail was brightly
aglow.

Snaz beamed with pride. "I added that just in case you need some
extra light. Stroke him again and the shimmering will fade."

"Snaz, what is this marvelous creature?," Santa asked.

"We call him Peppermint. Go on, tell him where you want to go."

"Peppermint," Santa called, "Take me to Toy House C."

With no hesitation at all, Peppermint began leading Santa toward
the specified location. Santa felt strong and secure as he walked
with Peppermint. From that day on, Santa was never seen without
Peppermint at his side.

*****

Christmas Eve had arrived at last. Elves were busy loading the
last bundles of toys onto Santa's sleigh. The team of reindeer
was in place and ready to go. Peppermint led Santa to the sleigh.
Santa was once again his round and jolly old self. He jumped into
the sleigh with great confidence. He stroked Peppermints's head,
and his fur began to glow. Santa used this light to oversee every
last detail of the journey ahead.

Finally, Santa shouted, "Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer
and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! To
Rudolph with your guiding light! Now, dash away, dash away, dash
away all!"

The sleigh took off at once. Elves cheered and waves their arms.
Christmas would be a complete success
The sleigh continued to rise, Santa let out a mighty "ho, ho,
ho!"


What would Christmas be like if Santa Claus was deaf-blind?

Exactly the same.

As he drove out of sight, Santa Claus exclaimed, "Happy Christmas
to All... And to all a good night!" In the gleam of Peppermint's
light, Santa could be seen flashing the "I love you" hand sign.
Then in a twinkle, he was gone.


Angela C. Orlando
revised December, 2012

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