Madison nodded at Santa and then she noticed the man standing behind him. It couldn’t be…could it? Joy leaped in her heart and brought tears of happiness and relief to her eyes. It really didn’t matter how or why, only that he was here and safe!
“Daddy! Daddy!” She raced across the toy strewn floor and threw herself into his outstretched arms. “It’s me, Maddy! Where have you been? Mommy is worried sick over you.” Her words tumbled out in a jumble and she buried her face in his neck, inhaling the familiar scent of his aftershave.
“Hey, sweetheart. What are you doing here? How did you even manage to get here?” Dad unwound her arms from around his neck and sat down at a nearby table with her on his knee, just like when she was little.
“It’s all kind of weird, Dad. I found Gibb in my closet and then we went spinning like crazy and ended up with a roomful of elves, well I think they were elves, and then he brought me here. Why are you here, Daddy? Mommy misses you so much, and so do I. Am I dreaming you…and all this?” Madison’s eyes started to fill with tears and her lip trembled. What if she wasn’t really here with Daddy, but really sleeping in her own bed trying not to hear Mommy crying in the next room?
“No, princess, I’m real and I’m glad it was Gibb who brought you. I’ve known Gibb for a very long time, he’s one of my oldest friends.” Dad kissed her forehead and wiped away the single tear that hovered on her lash.
“Why haven’t you ever talked about him, Gibb I mean? And why are you here?” Madison persisted. She just couldn’t understand why Daddy was here, wherever here was.
Santa sat down across the table from them and coughed and Madison tore her gaze from her dad to look at him. Merry blue eyes twinkled at her from beneath bushy white eyebrows that sort of lost themselves in the long curling white hair which blended with the thick beard that covered the lower part of the man’s face. A thousand questions skittered around in her brain but she couldn’t find the words to get any of them out of her mouth. Finally, she looked back at her dad who smiled encouragingly at her.
“How do you know Santa?” she managed to squeak out, turning her attention back to the heavy set man across from her.
Santa’s laughter boomed so loud the delicate blown glass ornaments on the tree tinkled and shivered. Madison squealed in delight. No department store Santa ever sounded that happy or welcoming. It really was Santa, sitting right in front of her.
“I’ve known Santa all my life, Madison.” He forestalled her questions with a raised hand and a wink. “Mommy doesn’t know about it, but I suppose we’ll have to explain things when we get home later today. You’re here because it was time you met Santa and discovered your heritage,” Daddy explained.
“What do you mean…my…heritage?” She wrinkled her forehead in thought. It sounded like an important word but she really wasn’t sure what it meant.
“Heritage is…well…your family history, sort of. Like you inherit your hair colour and eye colour from your ancestors, your parents and their parents before them. Do you understand so far?” Daddy paused and waited for her to answer.
Madison nodded and waited for him to continue.
“Sometimes, you also inherit certain duties or jobs that are family obligations, passed down from one generation to the next. You, my darling daughter, have a very special heritage,” he explained. “And you also have a very special ability, a magical ability that only you possess. No one else in all the world can do what we need you to do.
“But what does that have to do with Santa?” Madison leaned close and whispered in his ear.
“It’s not polite to whisper, Madison. You know that,” Dad reminded her.
She bit her lip in embarrassment and nodded.
“To answer your question, Santa is my father…and your grandfather.”