OTTUMWA — Santa's job will be a lot easier if he just listens to the children.
Though some were shy during his recent visit to Wilson Elementary School in Ottumwa, others had very specific instructions.
"I said I want Barbies and I want makeup, red and green, like Christmas," said Vikey Rodriguez, age 6.
The children weren't just talking about what they wanted, though that, of course, is what Santa Claus wants to know. They also had other information as well as gifts of their own. One child sent him a card. Vikey went one step further.
"I made a picture for him," Vikey said. "I colored it. It's a picture of him."
She had just met the man himself Friday afternoon at school, so she got to tell him about the drawing. Wilson's PTA hosted a Santa's Workshop event, where kids went through the gym to purchase simple, low-cost presents for their families. Any profits go to the PTA's efforts. Students wandered through the gym Christmas shopping until they were distracted by the sound of jingle bells — not the song but actual bells on straps of leather.
Wilson Principal Jody Williams and Mrs. Claus escorted Santa down the hall to a chair in front of the school's Christmas tree. Children completing an errand in the hallway stopped and stared, jaws open, when they saw the celebrity in their midst.
"I'm watching you," Santa reminded the little ones as Principal Williams sent the stragglers on their way. She then ushered forward one class at a time to meet the jolly one.
So what did Santa say? Aamiyah Hamilton, 7, had one of the longer conversations with Santa Friday.
"He was talking about what I wanted and I told him a playhouse, a [video game], a Baby Alive (doll)," she said, "and a car seat."
The car safety seat, it turns out, is for the doll.
"You might want to change the page," she told a reporter scribbling in his notebook, "I've got a lot more. Do you need a table?"
It turns out most of the additional items that needed to be listed consisted of items for the doll, like a stroller and crib. Santa had made no promises, telling most of the children he'd surprise them. But the kids liked him anyway.
"He's nice," said Vikey.
"He's really nice," stressed Aamiyah. "People kept saying over and over that he wasn't real, but he is."
One big subject of conversation Friday with first- and second-graders: missing teeth. Aamiyah gave Santa a big smile so he could see her missing tooth.
"He liked it. He said I have a pretty smile," she said.
She lost her tooth wrestling around with her brother, who she says got too rough. Though she and her classmates were already back in their room, the story about getting knocked down by her brother actually reminded her of a final message she was hoping could be passed on to the North Pole.
"You can tell Santa, 'Tony needs to be on the naughty list.'"
— To follow reporter Mark Newman on Twitter, see @CourierMark