“Now sit still Jessie. You’ll look so beautiful in the photo with your Santa hat. You, and Santa will match!” Molly adjusted the sequined hat she had placed on Jessie’s head and smiled. She stood back to look at the full effect.
Jessie grimaced. It was only January, but Molly had decided that today was the perfect day to take the family Christmas photo for the coming Christmas. She had said something about a lull in the photographer’s schedule but Jessie wasn’t really listening. She hated the hat Molly had sewn her, and was trying to figure out ways of losing it. She had tried jumping on the couch and sitting on it, but the shiny material glowed from beneath her fur. Molly had pulled the hat out and had steamed the creases out of it.
Then, Jessie had tried dumping the hat in the toilet, but Molly had merely chastised her, and brought out a duplicate hat she had made for herself. “You’ll look better in it than I will Jessie and I want you and Chris to match.” The look on Molly’s face told Jessie that she was determined to get her way and Jessie had reluctantly walked up to Molly and waited for the hat to be placed on her head.
A few moments later Santa came out into the room. At first he didn’t notice Jessie as he was busy reading the North Pole Times. But, when Molly started humming a jaunty tune he looked up and saw the dog. The corner of his eyes rolled up to the ceiling and his mouth twitched. He snickered and then he roared with laughter. “Molly, that dog looks like she works in a show in Las Vegas. You can’t be serious. We can’t have her wearing that hat in our photograph. The Claus’s of the past will look down from heaven and blush.”
Santa leaned down, and took the hat off of Jessie to examine more closely. The hat was a cardinal red. It was covered in sequins, and a small flashing red and green light glowed in the cuff of the hat. “Molly this thing looks like a strobe light.”
Jessie shook her head. She was glad to be rid of the hat. It was scratchy and way to embarrassing. She glanced over at Molly and her ears went down. Molly was standing in the corner. She had a shawl in her hand that she was turning back and forth. She sniffled and a tear rolled down her face.
Santa noticed Molly’s face at the same time, and stammered. “Mind you Molly, this would be a good costume for the talent show this year. Jessie and I could enter. I don’t know what talent we would show but your clothing is sure to win us first prize. “ Santa grinned sheepishly and moved to gently hug his wife.
Molly pulled away. The muscles in her jaw were firm and unflinching. “Christopher Claus, I spend hours over the sewing machine designing this family clothing for our Christmas photographs. Are you telling me that you don’t care enough to wear them even in one picture? “Molly stared at Santa.
Santa flinched. He looked down at Jessie who was now nervously watching Santa’s back. A silent agreement went between the two.
“Well, I guess one picture won’t hurt Molly. But remember, I have to wear my official uniform for the photographs that go out to the media and to the children. “Santa cleared his throat and waited.
“Fine. But, I will have one picture. Before Santa could say another word Molly handed him his sequined hat and bent down to put the other hat on Jessie. She then called the photographer over. “Take the picture now Dolan. Before they try to escape!”
“Now Molly”, said Santa.
“Silence,” said Molly. “Pretend to smile for the camera.”
The group sat rigidly together and took the picture. Everyone was uncomfortable and when the photographer printed off a copy of the image she grimaced. In the image Jessie had part of the hat hanging over her eyes. The flash from the had also gave her the appearance of a demon dog. Santa sat rigid staring into the camera with a goofy smile on his face. His arm was half draped over Molly. Molly was pushing away Santa’s hand and stared straight at the camera. Her red shawl was entangled around her body.
The photographer took the picture from Molly’s outstretched hand and said, “Perhaps madam, we should re-shoot in several days’ time when more proper attire can be presented.” Without another word the elf photographer packed up his camera, bid good day to the group, and let himself out the door leaving a business card on the side table.
Molly began to cry in earnest. The single tear that had fallen earlier was now a river of water flowing freely down a red and pained face. “Maybe you were right Santa. But, I just wanted our first picture with Jessie to be perfect. “She blew her nose noisily into a handkerchief and plopped onto the couch.
Jessie jumped up, licked her across the face, and picked up the hat. She held it out for Molly to take and then placed her head on her lap.
“I think Jessie would wear the hat if you wanted her to Molly. But, you’re trying to make her something she’s not. She’s not at all flashy. She’s a kind, gentle creature. A picture with or without her wearing a new hat will be perfect because our family is perfect; just the three of us.”
Santa kissed Molly on the forehead. She sniffed once again and then smiled weakly. I suppose your right Santa. I’ll make arrangements for the photographer to come back but this time you can wear your suit. We’ll throw away the hat. Jessie is beautiful just the way she is.”