Christmas is long over, the holiday season gone in a blink (save for the strings of lights still frozen in bushes & trees, & along railings & awnings & rooftops amidst the snow & ice Mother Nature has dealt New Jersey here as of late), but I wanted to share a little bit of Christmas spirit I managed to bottle back in December.
My daughter Athena is only 2-1/2 yrs old, but it was the first time she’d actually be able to “get” Santa Claus, & we had to start spinning the Santa mythos. He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, naughty, nice… that whole thing. We even introduced the “Elf on a Shelf” to Athena – a little elf doll who serves as Santa’s eyes in your household. The trick (for the parents) is to move the elf into a new position throughout the house every day where your child will spot it. On a shelf (hence the name), a ledge, piece of furniture, etc. Your child cannot touch the elf (and that is the trick for the parents), but merely be aware that the elf is watching & reporting the news back to Santa. Quite frankly, if they had such a thing when I was a kid, I’d be shit scared of it. A freaky little pixie with a smile rooted across its face, popping up in all sorts of random spots where I’d least expect it? No thanks, mom & dad. But needless to say, my daughter liked Doodles. Yes, we had to name him, too. Hey, I shouldn’t complain – I was the one who picked his name, after all. I have to admit, it was kind of funny listening to my daughter yell “..oodles! ..oodles!” every morning once she spotted him.
It was a lot of work bringing the “Santa saga” to life. But I took it seriously – this was like writing a book for me. I really developed Santa’s storyline & breathed some fresh life into his character. Even for a two-year-old, I had to make the man sound convincing. I mean, Santa isn’t real.
I don’t know when my belief in Santa Claus died… but then we took my daughter to meet him.
It was about two weeks before Christmas, give or take, & were at a store where Santa would be “appearing.” We made sure to arrive early; there’s nothing worse than being stuck on a line with cries of impatience & hysteria filling your head, especially when those cries don’t even belong to your own child. I scanned the crowd, silently picking out the kids who could “talk the talk” but not “walk the walk.” You know the type: standing for endless stretches chanting “Santa, Santa,” but who’d scream bloody terror for their mommas the moment the Man himself arrived. Athena nestled patiently in my arms, not quite understanding the fuss of the other children, but quietly soaking the moment in with those wide heart-breaker eyes of hers.
And then the Man did arrive.
It started with a shout of “Santa!” then an excited buzz shivered down the line. When I saw him, however, my initial reaction was that this was all wrong. Santa was much, much too short.
It looked like Santa; the gentleman playing Santa was as much Santa as Santa could be. The rosy cheeks, the warm smile, the gentle & thoughtful face; it was Kris Kringle, alright. But he was in a motorized wheelchair.
No reindeer. No Rudolph, no Blitzen, no Comet. There was no sled. Elves did not prance before him or perch upon his shoulder, nor was Mrs. Claus to be found. Just an elderly man dressed in a very convincing Santa Claus suit, making his way to his North Pole perch in a motorized wheelchair.
You couldn’t just hear the hush from those in attendance; you could feel it. And I read the faces of the parents, & of the kids, too, & most of them betrayed what was supposed to be the spirit of the holiday. I knew what they were thinking. This is Santa? Really?
But my daughter’s face beamed with a smile ear to ear, & I believe mine was, too. For it was then that Santa lived once more for me. No amount of Santa Claus storytelling embellishment could ever recapture the magic of that moment. As I lowered Athena onto the gentleman’s lap, I realized this was a man who would never allow a predisposed condition to prevent him from sharing & spreading the true meaning of Christmas. My daughter may never remember that day, but I will be sure to remind her each year.
Thank you, Santa. Christmas isn’t only meant for December anymore.