On this super cold (6 degree F) morning in Arkansas, these four Russian Santas are basking in the sunlight that pours through our dining room windows. And I'm basking right along with them. Thankfully, we've been spared the snowstorms, which much of the country has experienced. But the frigid temperatures remind me of the days in Moscow when I purchased the Santas.
No matter how many layers of clothes, gloves, socks, scarves and hats I put on, I still froze each December when I went shopping for gifts at Izmailovo Market.
As I wandered among matryoshka dolls, lacquerware, amber jewelry, Frabergé eggs (replicas), paintings, fur hats, carpets, Soviet memorabilia, and endless rows of booths – my fingers and feet quickly grew numb. I could hardly unzip my purse to pull out rubles or clomp down one more lane to find just the right item. But, of course, I did!
When it came to selecting one Santa from hundreds, I had a clear priority. He must have a kind face. Even if I couldn't see his entire mouth, I could tell kindness in twinkling eyes, rosy cheeks, an upturned mustache.
The kindness in their faces is the quality I remember most about the Russian friends Drew and I made while working for seven years at the Anglo-American School in Moscow and St. Petersburg. We shared meals, conversations, cups of tea, an occasional sip of vodka, and spoke of our families, our commonalities – despite our countries' historic differences.
Santa, aka Ded Moroz, Pére Noël, Sinterklaas, Saint Nicolas, Weihnaachtsmann, Kris Kringle, is not bothered by boundaries, nationalities, governments or even stop lights as he faithfully delivers gifts to one and all alike. One chimney, pair of shoes, stocking or tree is the same to him.
I wonder. Might we, as recipients of that generosity, likewise spread peace and good will to our neighbors, wherever we may find them?
I simply need to look into the faces of my Russian Santas...to believe.