“What do you want Santa to Bring you?” asked Hannah.
Frederick had been pouring over catalogues all afternoon. His face was covered in pink splotches, which he’d been instructed not to scratch. He had been home for three days with the chickenpox and the doctor had said it wasn’t likely to clear up before Christmas.
He looked up at his nanny with mournful eyes and sighed. “I don’t care,” he said finally. “I wish he’d make my chickenpox go away.”
“How do you think he’d do that?” asked Hannah, nudging her blonde hair back in place with the back of her hand. She was currently engaged in a bowl of soft cheese, caramelized onions and spices. It was going to be a cheese ball for tonight’s Christmas Party. Fredrick would be confined to his room for the affair. He didn’t mind that so much. He’d be out of the clutches of Seraphine Daniels. Seraphine kept trying to kiss him and play house with him.
“I think Santa could come down the chimney and stand over my bed and ‘poof’ the chickenpox would disappear,” he said finally.
“Santa Claus isn’t a wizard, Freddy. He can’t cure disease. Besides, your chickenpox will be gone in a week or so, and then won’t you be glad to have nice toys to play with?”
“He won’t bring me what I really want,” said Frederick mournfully.
“What's that?” asked Hannah in surprise. The Hummel family was incredibly rich. There were few things a boy could want that they couldn’t buy, except maybe a star on the Hollywood Walk or a space shuttle.
“Bagpipes,” said Freddy.
Hannah was so surprised by this answer that she dropped the bag of (thankfully unopened) pecans. “Bagpipes?” he asked incredulously.
“Uh-huh. I saw a movie with a little boy playing the bagpipes and I thought it was really neat. There’s also that guy in Central Park who plays them when it’s summer?”
Hannah nodded, she remembered the fellow.
“I really want a set of bagpipes.”
“Did you ask your mother?”
“She said it was a stupid thing to ask for and wouldn’t I rather have a transformer or a powerwheels.”
“She didn’t like the idea?” slightly angry over Mrs. Hummel’s use of the word ‘stupid.’
“No. Dad agreed with her. He said I had a perfectly good violin and I should learn to play that before I try any fool bagpipe. They said it was too noisy and expensive and Santa Claus wouldn’t get one for us because I’m not Scottish, I’m French-German-English-American. I didn’t know you had to be Scottish.”
“I don’t see why you’d have to be Scottish,” said Hannah, washing the cheese from her hands. “You don’t have to be Japanese to play a Yamaha piano.”
“Well anyway, I’m not getting one. They said they had the power of veto over lists to Santa.”
“I guess that’s that, then. Sorry Freddy.”
“It’s alright,” sighed Freddy mournfully plodding up the stairs to his room. It was packed full of every toy imaginable and every electronic game system known to man. Yet Hannah knew that Freddy would sit at the window seat, scratching his scabs, and dream of tartan kilts and a droning pentatonic Amazing Grace.
That afternoon as she browsed the bookstore for presents she caught sight of a book in the reduced price stack. It was an enormous coffee-table book full of scenic pictures of Scotland, rolling hills, old castles and a seemingly endless supply of sheep. Sure enough there were beautiful full-color photos of bagpipers, in traditional costume, piping some unheard melody on sheer cliff sides and blustery downs. The book was only $5.99 so Hannah decided to get it for Freddy. He was a sweet little boy, after all and he couldn’t help being the forgotten son of two snobbish socialites. As a pimply-faced girl rang her up and began to gift wrap it, Hannah got a glimpse of the back cover with a red star on the back. On the star were the words “Includes CD! With 28 tracks of traditional bagpipe music!”
Hannah grinned widely. Well, she was going back to Finland next month anyway.