Five-year-old Tracey Lott leapt from Santa Claus’ lap and hugged her father, Jonathan Lott, as tightly as she could.
A moment later, her father broke down, too. Lott surprised his two daughters at Decatur Mall on Christmas Eve, returning from a three-year tour of duty in Germany as a technical sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.
“I think Tracey thought it was a dream,“ Lott said. “
Lott’s wife, Katie, set up the whole surprise. Her husband hid in a store while her daughters visited with the mall’s Santa. Santa brought up the girls’ father, and when Tracey told him she wanted him to come home, her father revealed himself.
Katie Lott said the whole plan came close to not happening because her husband’s flight was delayed a day and Santa’s helper at the mall was trying to get back home to Atlanta.
Jonathan Lott watched his children open gifts from Santa at his in-laws’ house in Hartselle on Christmas Day. The last time Lott saw his kids was nine months ago, and the last time they celebrated Christmas together was in 2010. His other child, 2-year-old Aubrey, was only 6 months old then.
“I’ve come home from deployment before, and Aubrey was a little standoffish,” he said. “Sometimes she has to get used to Dad being at home again ... but that night we were at dinner and she was hugging all over me.”
Lott gets two or three weeks of vacation before he is shipped out again to Florida. He is an aircraft mechanic for the Air Force.
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