There was once a young girl who was the daughter of a salesman and a seamstress. Her father traveled often, so the girl spent most of her days playing or reading in the corner of the dressmaker's shop while her mother worked. Each morning, just before dawn, the girl and her mother would ride the bus into town. Most of the time, the girl napped, her head leaning against the window. But during the Christmas season, she loved to look at all of the decorated store fronts as they drove past. Each day, the square had a few more decorations--first the lights, then the garland, the figurines, the bows--until every window and every light post was devoted to the season.
The week before Christmas, the girl noticed a white-bearded man with a cane sitting a few rows in front of them. On the first morning, she couldn't help but stare at the man who looked so much like Santa Claus. He winked at her when she got off of the bus. On the second day, he said "Good morning." On the third, she said "Good morning" back.
"You must have a lot of people ask if you're Santa," she said.
The man chuckled. "Many people tell me their wishes at Christmastime. Sometimes I help make their wishes come true."
The little girl's eyes widened. "You can make wishes come true?" she asked.
The man nodded. "Sometimes. I'll tell you what. You bring me four of your wishes tomorrow, and I'll see what I can do."
The bus squeaked as it came to a stop in front of the dressmaker's shop. The little girl nodded quickly to the man and followed her mother onto the street. She spent the whole day thinking about her wishes.
The next morning, she found the man in the same seat. "Did you think of your wishes?" he asked.
"Yes!" she replied. "If you please, sir, I wish for some chocolates, a new writing pen, a dollhouse, and a kitten."
The man smiled, but he looked disappointed. "My dear girl," he said, "that is a lovely list. But may I ask you one question?" The girl nodded. "All of your wishes are for you. Is there not someone else who you would like to make happy this Christmas?"
She didn't know what to say. The bus brakes squeaked and her mother stood. "Don't worry, dear child," said the man, "I'll be here again tomorrow."
On the fifth day, the girl was eager to speak to the man again. She had not meant to be selfish with her wishes, and wanted to prove that she was a kind and generous person. She had stayed up half the night thinking of what she would wish for the other people in her life.
As he had been every day before, the man was in his seat when the girl and her mother boarded the bus. "I have new wishes today," she said.
"I would love to hear them."
"I wish that my mother will have some time to enjoy the holidays--she has been so busy making party dresses for the dress shop--and that my father will not be lonely while he travels."
"Those are two very good wishes."
The girl smiled. "And I have two more, please. I wish that the little girl next door will have someone to play with now that her brother has gone away to school, and I wish that the man who lives on the corner will not cry any more about his wife, who has passed away."
"Two more excellent wishes," the man replied. The girl felt the bus begin to slow as they approached the dress shop. "I have one more wish for you," he said, "When Christmas morning comes, I wish that you will know how to make all of your wishes come true."
The brakes squeaked, her mother stood and hurried the girl off of the bus. She was confused. She thought this man was supposed to grant her wishes--what was she to do?
The next day was Christmas Eve. The girl and her mother boarded the bus for the dress shop--there were still a few alterations to complete--but the man was not there. The girl was sad and spent most of the day shuffling around the shop, trying to forget about her wishes and the man on the bus.
On Christmas morning, the girl received a new dress from her mother and a blue hat from her father. Also under the tree were four packages without tags. She opened the first one--a box of chocolates. The second contained a writing pen, and the third a dollhouse. The young girl didn't understand--these were her selfish wishes. Why had she received them?
A tiny bell jingled from behind the tree. The little girl bent to look and found a small kitten peering through the branches. There was a small envelope tied around its neck with a ribbon. Inside was a note that read,
Make all your wishes come true.
The fifth wish.
It took her most of the day, but the little girl finally realized what the man on the bus must have meant. She took her new pen and a piece of paper and wrote two letters. The first thanked the man on the bus for helping to make her wishes come true. The second was for her father, who would be returning to work the next day. She wrote about her plans for the week, about how much she loved him and couldn't wait for him to return home. She slipped the letter into his coat pocket as she left the house that afternoon, carrying a basket with the kitten inside.
The young girl walked to the house on the corner and placed the basket and kitten onto the grieving man's doorstep. She rang the bell and hid behind a nearby tree. The man was delighted when he discovered the small creature at his feet. He called her Edith.
Next, the girl skipped to her neighbor's house and invited the little girl who lived there to come and play with her new dollhouse the very next day. When the girl finally returned home, her father and mother were in the living room--he was reading quietly and she was mending a torn hem. The little girl tuned the radio to a station playing Christmas carols and retrieved the box of chocolates from beneath the tree. Together they sang and enjoyed the candy, and the little girl was pleased that she had been able to make each of her Christmas wishes come true.