When Desire Elsen brought her four children to Christmas Village at Home Depot Thursday evening, the kids had no idea that their biggest Christmas present was arriving early.
When Desire, Nivaeh, 10, Kylie, 8, Kaden, 6, and Delilah, 4, arrived at the festive Christmas Village, they excitedly got photos with Frosty the Snowman before dashing around to see the horses and other animals.
As they posed with the beloved Christmas character, the kids had no idea that underneath the Frosty costume was their dad, Keenan, who has been deployed since June with VAQ-140 as an Aviation Structural Mechanic Equipment First Class on the USS Eisenhower.
The squadron was scheduled for a nine-month deployment but the ship returned early to Norfolk, Va. and Keenan will get to spend a few months at home before deploying for another six months in February.
As the kids delightedly took a train ride around the parking lot with Frosty, Desire watched, her face glowing with joy.
She knew her husband was dressed as Frosty but had to keep the secret just a little longer.
Her friends arranged the homecoming surprise at Christmas Village.
“It just got better and better and better from there,” she said. “We’re lucky to have friends and family who love us so much.”
As the train pulled up in front of Santa’s and Mrs. Claus’ tent, the kids rushed to sit on their laps.
As Santa asked them what they want for Christmas, Kaden and Delilah said they’d like their dad to come home.
Santa wasted no time granting their wish as Frosty stepped forward and took off his mask.
The kids’ faces lit up as they rushed to their dad for hugs, smiles never leaving their faces even as their eyes filled with tears.
“It was really awesome!” Kylie said after the family took a group photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus. When asked if she’d missed her dad while he was deployed, Kylie jumped up and down, nodding.
Smiling, Desire described the homecoming as “amazing.”
“I’m blessed,” she said. “It’s a lot of work without him home.”
“It’s nice,” Keenan said of coming home early. “It’s a good feeling since we weren’t supposed to be home for awhile.”
With plans to stay home and enjoy time as a family over the holidays, the Elsens started their holiday celebration by enjoying the animals, cookies and festive atmosphere of Christmas Village together.