, Salem, MA

Local News

January 9, 2009

Family treasures visit from Santa

Ann Crowley had to grab the camera. Santa, a 12-year-old orphan visiting their home from Latvia, had accomplished a feat no one else in the family had ever managed. She got the dog and two cats, who hate each other, to fall asleep in the same bed with her.

"She told me today she's going to put the dog in her suitcase when she leaves," Crowley says.

Santa goes back to Latvia on Friday, following a four-week stay with the Crowleys in Beverly. It's not a date anyone is looking forward to at the moment.

"It's pretty awful to think about, actually," Crowley says.

Santa first met the family last summer through New Horizons for Children, a hosting program that gives orphans from Eastern Europe the chance to experience a loving American home.

She came again on Dec. 16, to spend Christmas with the Crowley family, which includes Ann, her husband and five children, ages 37 to 14.

Besides cuddling with the pets, Santa has spent her time swimming at the YMCA and eating pizza and strawberry ice cream. She went with Anna, the Crowley's seventh-grader, to school one day. They've visited a snow tubing park and the aquarium. They fit in trips to the mall, the movies and the Museum of Fine Arts.

When she was here last summer, the Crowleys took Santa to Santa's Village in New Hampshire, and, of course, got a picture of their guest with the sign.

"This is my village," Santa joked at the time.

In those pictures, and all the time in fact, Santa hid one side of her face with her strawberry blond bangs to conceal an eye defect. She was understandably self-conscious, especially in her environment, where fitting in with the other kids at the orphanage can be a matter of self-preservation.

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