Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the hall lots of children were stirring, as they played and they called.
The presents were strewn through the hospital with care, until flanked by his entourage, in walked the mayor.
Although he couldnt mobilize a crew of flying reindeer like Santa Claus, Mayor Michael Bloomberg doled out some cheer of his own one day before Christmas at the Queens Hospital Centers pediatric holiday party.
Looking more like Santas little helper than Jolly Red himself, Bloomberg settled down in a grandfatherly wooden chair to present his official mayoral rendering of The Night Before Christmas to a boisterous crowd of children sitting eagerly at his feet.
Lest he lose his captive audience, Bloomberg peppered his reading with a few comprehension questions, some of them (such as Who is St. Nicholas?) easier than others.
The mayor threw out one doozy If there are eight reindeer, how many hooves are there on the roof? requiring zoological knowledge and computational skills his toddling audience had yet to master. After some perplexed silence and a couple wrong answers, one tiny voice emerged with the correct number (32).
When he asked his little elves whether they hoped for snow on Christmas (their answer: Yes!), Bloomberg showed the kind of Yuletide pragmatism that could only come from a mayor in hard times: Im not sure the city Sanitation Department wants it or the budget director wants it, but it would be nice, he admitted.
Not exactly known for his bubbly spirit, the mayors reading was only slightly less wooden than the chair in which he sat. But his lap proved a cozy enough nook for little Emily Emanuel, 3, who kept poking her head at his leg until His Honor hoisted her onto his left knee.
There she stayed until Bloombergs Santa was soaring back to the North Pole, shouting, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
From pediatric outpatients to local day-care students and hospital employees relatives, the few hundred children who filled the hospitals airy atrium for the holiday party all emerged with full tummies and a gift all their own.
Santa Claus worked the room like an Upper East Side hostess with a clone. While one Santa passed out presents to a long line of eager recipients at the front of the lobby, another posed for photos in the rear.
At least one youngster caught onto the duplicity.
When asked who gave him his present a brand-new shrink-wrapped checker set 10-year-old Corey Neives of Westbury replied, A fake Santa.
His younger siblings were not yet so jaded. A pig-tailed Daphne, 7, said her baby doll came from none other than Santa himself, while Joseph, the middle child at 9 years old, tempered his skepticism: It was a man in a suit.
Whether that suit was red like Santas or gray like Bloombergs, he failed to say.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2003 Community News Group
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