Georg grunted. "Maria, this is completely ridiculous. I'm not doing it."

"You most certainly are. Now come here, so I can help you get it on straight." She tugged at the belt around his midsection, as he sighed in frustration again.

"Oh, stop. You're acting like a child." Maria looked up into the blue eyes she loved so much, and planted a kiss on his cheek. "You don't want to disappoint the little ones, do you?" This was their first Christmas in Vermont, and Friedrich had planned on surprising his youngest three siblings by dressing up as Santa. Except now he was down with a bad case of the flu, as was Kurt. It was left to Georg to make sure that the "babies", as they were known, were not disappointed.

"Please, darling? If they hadn't been so excited when Friedrich mentioned they might get to see Santa, we could forget about it. But….." Georg hushed his wife with a finger to her lips. He was about to make a sarcastic remark, but lost his thought when he recognized the gleam in her clear, blue eyes. The look that had stolen his heart so many years before.

"I know. I'm sorry. I just feel so foolish in this get-up. And must I wear this huge belly pillow?" Maria chuckled as she watched him looking at his reflection in the mirror on the back of their bedroom door.

"You do if you want those pants to stay up." She decided playing to his vanity was to her advantage. "I'm a very fortunate woman, that you've kept your boyish, trim build so well that you require that pillow."

"You really think so?" Georg cocked his eyebrow at her, and she smirked back at him.

"That I'm a fortunate woman? Yes. Now here, put on the beard and the hat." He did as he was told without comment, then held his hands out, in a gesture that said how do I look?

Maria smiled warmly at him again. "Perfect. You look just marvelous."

"So, now what do I do?" he asked, tugging at the beard. "Lord, Maria, this is very itchy."

"Well, don't scratch at it. Anna said that her friends told her the Santa at the department store has children sit on his lap, and they get to tell him what present they'd like him to bring."

"That's it?"

"Yes, that's all. Then you say, "ho, ho, ho," and tell them to be good girls and a good boy. And Brigitta will take them upstairs and put them to bed."

"Where will you be?"

"I was thinking I could sit on your lap and tell you what I want for Christmas."