NORTH POLE — Santa Claus has a busy time ahead of him Sunday, making deliveries to nearly 200 countries. But during December, he has been making appearances all around Robeson County to meet children and ask them the famous question, “What do you want for Christmas?”
“I want animals and fidget spinners,” 7-year-old Joshua Jones said.
His mother wasn’t too thrilled about that, saying Joshua has about 15 at home. He and his friend and classmate Aveah Jacobs, 7, both went to visit Santa at Biggs Park Mall in Lumberton.
This past year was a tough year for Robeson County’s children, Santa said. He didn’t get a lot of request for toys because of Hurricane Matthew.
“There were a lot of requests that I couldn’t fulfill,” he said.
“One child said ‘Santa I’m not going to ask for a lot this Christmas. All I just want is my cat back,’” Santa said.
The child was talking about his cat that was lost during Matthew.
“I just told him, “Hopefully the cat will come back,’” Santa said.
On 7-year-old Lizzie Newberry’s wish list were a Spider Gwen Fan Girl doll, a sewing machine, a Lego Boost Set, and a Star Wars Rey action figure. Newberry is familiar with the Jolly Old Elf. She has visited Santa almost every year.
“I’m used to it,” she said about sitting on Santa’s lap and telling him her wishes.
Bransleigh Locklear, 5, said she wants a Barbie Dream House and a four-wheeler.
“A little one,” she said in order to clarify
Despite Locklear’s request, it’s been a slow year for Barbie and another good year for electronics, Santa said.
“She didn’t get as many requests as she usually does,” he said about the popular toy. “I get a lot that ask for iPhones. Personally, I think they’re too young to have one.”
Although there has been the resurgence in the popularity of electronics, an old toy is making a comeback this year.
“Surprisingly, kids have been asking for Jack-in-the-box,” he said.
An often requested toy Santa isn’t too familiar with is the Fingerling.
“They’re these little things you stick on your fingers,” he said.
A Fingerling is a robotic monkey that grips your finger and blinks and moves it’s head.
Santa said he hasn’t received too many wild requests, but he does get a big request for a family member every now and then.
“You might get one child that wants a bass boat for their grandpa or a Mercedes Benz for their parents,” he said. “I just tell them that it’s good that they’re thinking about others.”
Besides listening to the requests of children, Santa has been making appearances around the county. He has been in parades and even displayed his acting skills in the Holiday Extravaganza on Dec. 1 at Givens Performing Art Center at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The best way to meet Santa Claus is at Biggs Park Mall in Lumberton, where he has been almost every day to talk to and have his photograph taken with children.
“Some won’t warm up to you, but you have some that don’t want to leave. Some won’t say anything and just give me a hug,” he said. “It’s amazing how sweet they can be. They don’t want to leave.”
Rosie Brown, 6, was nervous about visiting Santa and asking for a “live cat that’s white.”
“I was a little bit shy,” she said.
One person Santa didn’t mind taking a photo with, someone who is not shy, was Miss North Carolina Victoria Huggins. The pageant queen came to the mall for a special appearance.
“I looked up and there she was, and she yelled out ‘Santa, I want to take a picture with you,’” he said.
The first time he saw Huggins she was about 7 years old, Santa said. He has had the chance to watch many children, such as Huggins, grow up and change over the years.
“Sometimes I recognize them and sometimes they’ve changed so much I don’t know them,” Santa said.
Meeting children and “seeing the smiles on all of those faces” never gets old for Santa because he loves what he does.
Santa said his elves have been working hard this year to make this the best Christmas ever. But this month has rushed by quickly.
“It seems like we’re short one weekend,” he said.
Before he feeds his reindeer, dusts off the sleigh and makes the long trek around the world, Santa has a last message for children.
“Ho ho ho, I have my lists and I hope you’re not on the naughty one, but most of you have been good this year,” he said. “I want you to remember to be good and always do good in school. All good helpers are good listeners and all good listeners are good helpers. I look forward to going to your house, and have a merry, merry Christmas.”
Claus will be making a couple of last-minute visits today, before children have to be in bed. He will be at Biggs Park Mall from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday for photos. The mall is located at 2800 N. Elm St. in Lumberton.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at 910-309-3469 and email@example.com