There’s a child toddling in front of me. She’s bobbing along to the Christmas carols, though they’re barely audible over the hubbub of the bustling city shopping mall.
The shoppers brushing past her with loaded arms and drawn faces can’t hear them, but she can.
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
A young businessman stands in the middle of the footpath, head to the side, staring. He’s watching a busker, oblivious to the impatient sighs of people stepping around him. The busker plays for his audience of one, while hundreds of feet thunder past.
A jostle from the crowd breaks his gaze, and he glances at his watch. He slips a folded note into the musician’s case and disappears into the crowd.
Pa rum pum pum pum
A greying man sits on bench, dangling his grandchild on his knee. They have a game going, with the child repeatedly stealing grandad’s glasses from his face and cackling with laughter. The child’s mother hovers by with a loaded pram, a small smile on her face, watching. She glances down the mall, checks her watch, then takes a seat beside them, now laughing and joining in the game.
Behind them, the queue of parents and children waiting to sit on Santa’s knee spills out of the centre doors.
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style
In the middle of the mall, a table of volunteers are wrapping presents for charity donations. They too are singing along to the carols, santa hats and antlers balanced ridiculously on their heads. A tube of glitter is knocked over and there are squeals and laughter.
The recipients are gathered around the table waiting, scrolling through their phones.
Fa la la la la la la la la
A shopping counter is manned by two teenagers in nametags. They banter as they serve the insatiable queue, dancing around each other in the narrow counter space from the register, to the EFTPOS machine, to the string of shopping bags, and back to the queue. A customer snatches a shopping bag from the boy’s hands and he raises his eyes at the girl, who responds with the faintest of eye rolls.
She says something to him as she passes on her way to the storeroom, and he laughs, now blushing, now watching her retreating back.
Oh ho the mistletoe, hung where you can see
A mother scoops up the toddler who is still bobbing along in front of me. The little girl’s eyes are wide over her mother’s shoulder, watching the lights and colours, as they too disappear into the crowd of shoppers and buskers, volunteers and queues, teenagers and grandparents, of a busy city mall in mid-December.
Repeat the sounding joy. Repeat the sounding joy. Repeat the sounding joy.
Are you listening?