When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter,
It was a little too early, for the jolly red hatter.
Three days before Christmas:
It took me a few seconds to focus in on the car that had just pulled into mom’s driveway, but the second the driver opened his door, I knew it was “our man”.
When I say “our man”, I mean our very own Santa man was coming for his annual house call at mom’s … a ritual that started way back in the mid-eighties. And, although he was a few days early, I wasn’t one to complain. “Our man” had never missed a year since the day he started coming our way.
My kids grew up sitting on our Santa’s lap. They loved him and he loved them.
Our Santa loved our whole family. He was devoted to us. He knew everything there was to know about us, and as far as he was concerned, we could do no wrong. There was no room for naughty in our home … only nice.
It started way back when he was the Santa at Regency Mall in Richmond. And, I have to give my mom and sister, Nel, all the credit. After first seeing him in action, they would visit him just about every day he was there and watch, mesmerized, how he interacted with parents, grandparents and kids alike.
To them, he was the Christmas spirit personified.
They not only watched him, but they praised him for the way he gave undivided attention to each and every kid who made it to his knee. No matter how long the line, he never made anyone feel rushed. He made you feel like you were the most special person in the whole wide world, and for that, my mom and sister loved, appreciated and respected him.
As a result of their support and encouragement, he continued to grow to become an even better Santa. A pretender might fool some of the people some of the time, but not my mom and sister. They knew that deep down inside that costume was the true heart of a real Santa.
From that love a bond was formed with our family and our Santa.
Our Santa didn’t get many cheerleaders, especially ones like mom and Nel, because he was expected to spread cheer, not receive it. Not many grownups or kids spend time thinking about how tough a challenge it must be to be him. We are too busy thinking about ourselves.
But, it never fazed our Santa, he was always up for the challenge, always Mr. Ho, Ho, Ho.
He was genuinely interested in what his little admirers wanted or needed. He never complained that no one asked what he wanted or needed … how he was feeling … how he was doing … what it must be like having to meet the tall order expectations of every kid in the world … or, how were the elves, the reindeer, Mrs. Clause … or what was it like living in the always ice cold North Pole.
Sure, he got tons of cookies and milk … but how many real thank you notes? Or just good, old fashion how are you doing questions, especially off season.
This is where mom and Nel fit that bill. They were more than Santa’s helpers, they were his supporters, his friends and his cheerleaders. They kept him going and growing!
As pay back, Santa started visiting our entire family on Christmas day … every Christmas day, the entire time my girls were growing up. And, now he spends time with their kids as well, when they come to mom’s for Christmas and her birthday.
His most recent visit marks the 17th consecutive year.
On our Santa’s off days, he plays the role of a mild mannered postal worker (I think all superhero types play mild mannered folks on their off days).
He will be retiring at the end of January after 35 years.
I think being a postal worker has had its advantages in terms of helping him deliver gifts to everyone in the world on one Big Day (This is no place for Post Office delivery jokes … just remember the rain, sleet or snow part).
When my sister passed away a few years ago after a horrific battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s, we held a memorial service for her at a little, old country church where many of my relatives lay at rest, including my dad.
As I stood before friends and family who had come from near and far, I noticed, three rows from the front, our Santa, dressed as an ordinary, everyday man. I remember his tie making him look a bit uncomfortable.
I literally stopped what I was saying, pointed to him and said, “Look, it’s Santa. Thanks for coming our way, Santa.”
It seemed everyone looked in the direction I was pointing at once, to get a glimpse of this unexpected, world famous celebrity visitor.
Without a word, he raised a finger to his lips. It was the universal signal for, hush. He didn’t want to confuse any of the kids, or compete in any way with the sole purpose we were all there for.
I got the message loud and clear and went on with our celebration and commemoration of my sister, Nel.
A couple of weeks ago, my eleven year old granddaughter, Livi, left a message on my mobile.
“Hey Daddy Daddy, this is Livi. I was just wondering, was Santa Claus really at Nel’s funeral? ‘Cause that’s what my mommy thinks. And … I hope to see you soon. Bye.”
I really thought hard about my response before returning her call. I didn’t want to blow Santa’s cover, or my granddaughter’s beliefs. Livi was at Nel’s memorial service, but must have missed my “special introduction” all together.
When I got her on the phone, I got right to the point, “Livi, your mom was right. Santa, well …”
Before I could regroup, Livi interrupted, “Daddy, Daddy, it’s all right. I know Santa was there, because he loved Nel. And, he was in disguise because he didn’t want anyone to notice him at her funeral. That was really nice that he came, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, Livi, that was really nice. Really nice.”
After hanging up, I put my finger to my lips.
Then, I wiped my eyes.