"Do you believe in Santa Claus?"
The question came a few years ago, from the little girl in a puffy pink jacket sitting next to me. She'd been in my seat by the window when I boarded the plane, and I'd told her as much, so she fumbled with her seatbelt and slid over to the aisle. I realized how Grinch-ish it was for me to tell her she was in my seat, when she probably just wanted to look outside.
I asked her if she wanted to sit by the window and she said yes please and thank you and scooted back over. I settled into the seat next to her as she pulled out a beat-up Hershey's chocolate bar from her coat pocket. She unwrapped it, broke off half, and held it out to me.
"Do you want to share?"
She introduced me to her stuffed animal and we spent the flight playing Rock Paper Scissors and talking about the important things. She asked me if I was married and then why I wasn't. She guessed my age and I guessed her's. I showed her a picture of my horse and she asked me if I was sure my horse wasn't really a camel.
She asked me if believed in Santa and told me she'd asked him for three things: to be good, to be able to study hard, and to be with her mama forever. But she knew she was getting something else too, because she had peeked in a bag her mama had brought home last week.
She asked me what the tallest mountain in the world is and I said I thought it was Mt. Everest.
"Do you think God sits on top of it and watches over me and everyone?"
I sat there for a second, looking at this little girl whose face was shining and curious and real and beautiful and so full of promise and gratitude and sharing and love and all these things I think I've sometimes lost.
All these things that were now being given back to me by this angel sitting in seat 7E.
"Yes, I think He probably does."
The plane touched down and rolled to a stop. She crawled over me into the aisle and as she started to walk away, she turned back to say that it was nice talking to me and she hoped I'd have a Merry Christmas.
And then she was gone.
Do I believe in Santa Claus?
If he can look like a little girl in a puffy pink jacket, then yes.