We took our youngest to see Santa last night. He’s 11 and still believes, or at least very much wants to. It’s a funny tradition really, but there’s still something so sweet and innocent about it. To see the kids so excited and happy, captured by this event that brings us all together on that magical morning. This particular mall Santa has been there for as long as I can remember. The same man, so familiar to us, there in the photos from year to year as the kids get bigger and older—the same bearded face and puffy suit sitting there with them every time with a big smile on his face. We put the photos of all our Santa visits on the fireplace mantle at Christmas, and there he is, again and again. Last night we were the only ones there for a little while, so Santa spent a lot of time talking with my son. He was impressively knowledgable about many of the current toys and video games—I guess this shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. He just knew about stuff. I stood there watching this man, playing his role (how many thousands of times has he done this over the years?), and he acted as if this was the only kid in the world that mattered. He reminded my boy to be nice to his brother and to pick up his towels from the bathroom floor (how does he know?) and clean under his bed once in a while. Later, after we got home, I came upstairs and noticed my son picking up some things in his room. I asked him what's going on and he said, oh, I’m just gonna clean up around my bed. Santa said so. Our mall Santa. I don’t even know the man’s name, but I know a friend when I see one.