Searching For Santa

I can still feel the cold of the bedroom windowsill underneath my chin. The snow aglow in the moonlight. Young eyes scanned the skies, attentive ears perked to pick up the unmistakable sound of jingle bells. Eventually, after a long while, I would slip down into my bed, and sleep would overtake me. Every year, I tried to remain awake on Christmas Eve to catch a glimpse of Santa and his entourage. And every year, childhood exhilaration would give way to exhaustion.

I bought it. Hook, line, and sinker. I never questioned that a fat guy in a red suit was going to slink down our chimney, hot coals be darned.

I continued to believe until that fateful day in the 5th grade. When my best friend told me that Santa was just some guy who wore black boots and a costume. She also threw in some information about how babies were born. I still haven’t recovered from that last bit of news.

We made the decision, here in the House of Fiddle, not to outright lie about the Santa myth to our children. But, we let them believe as much as they want. In other words, there are many magical, wonderful things about Christmas, that they just don’t question. They believe what they want, and they don’t have to worry about some strange fat guy in a red suit trying to fit through the air conditioning vents. It’s a win win situation.

This is the first year that they’ve actively sought out Santa. In years past, he was someone to be completely avoided in the mall. Their grandparents live near the beach, and in their community, Santa’s sleigh rides atop a fire engine, as he makes his way around the community greeting boys and girls standing in their driveways. The scheduled day came last week. We drove over to be part of this annual ritual along with assorted other cousins. On our way, we drove past the fire station to see the sleigh, precariously perched on the top of the fire engine. Emme was extremely concerned that Santa would be riding without the benefit of a seatbelt. I assured her that Santa was compliant with current safety standards, and probably even had side airbags.

But, I was a bit concerned myself.

We positioned ourselves in the driveway when the appointed hour arrived. We heard the familiar jingle bells and sirens weave closer to our street, and then go further away. Only to come closer, and then drive further away. This got very old after about an hour. And Fiddledaddy had enough of wrangling a wriggling Jensen. I thought of placing a 911 call, to get the sleigh to our address faster. But then, the thought of spending Christmas in jail wearing unflattering stripes made me keep my phone in my purse. I did wonder what they would do with the sleigh and Santa should an actual emergency arise. Because I clearly think too much.

Despite many protests from the peanut gallery, we threw our children into the van to go in search of the elusive Santa. We followed the sound of the sirens, never to find him.

Or her, as it was.

We found out the next day from the cousins that Santa showed up after an hour and a half, and HE was a SHE. With her high little shrill “ho ho ho”, and ill fitting red suit, she whizzed by in 5 seconds flat. So fast, that the pictures were all blurred.

Evidently we missed a big fat nothing.

I promised the girls that we would hit the mall the next day to look for Santa. And take a picture for posterity. The last picture I had of Santa was one that Emme took when she was 2 months old. Mercifully she slept through the whole thing.We arrived at 1:00, only to find out that Santa was taking a lunch break until 2:00. We amused ourselves at the mall playground, where I downed more than the recommended daily allowance of Starbucks coffees. We went back to Santa’s village at 2:00. And stood in line with the other harried shoppers, and screaming children. I saw child after child have a nervous breakdown when placed in Santa’s lap. A Santa that looked as though he would rather be sitting in a boiling vat of fat than on that oversized green velvet torture chamber of a chair. As a former children’s entertainer, I can so relate. As a mother, high on caffeine, I yelled at him “WOULD IT KILL YOU TO SMILE?”

In my head.

Our turn finally came. After my hair had all turned gray but before my head exploded all over the Christmas decor.

A perky elf asked, “Which package would you like?”

“Excuse me?”

“We have the 5×7 that includes 4 wallets for only $19.99.”

“Um, I just want my kids to see Santa so I can snap a picture with my own camera,” knowing that at least one of my children would be traumatized and uncooperative.

“Well, if you purchase a package, you can take a picture with your own camera,” she said, still smiling through gritted teeth.

I surmised that she hated her job as well.I had seen some of these “purchased” pictures while standing in line for 14 years. They were hideous. I knew I could do a better job. Which is saying something since all of my pictures are notoriously out of focus.

Not willing to part with $19.99, and what was left of my Christmas spirit, we left.

The search continues.

I’m thinking it would be much easier if Santa still made house calls.

As much caffeine as I consume now, I just might be able to stay awake this time.

December 21, 2007

11 Responses to Searching For Santa

  • I come from a family that goes to great lengths to prove their is a Santa and perpetuate the lie as long as possible. And they lie through their teeth the whole time. So we decided that hwe had to either lie with them or tell the kids the truth–there was no way around it in our family. Much to my mom’s dismay we chose to tell the the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but he truth. Recently the kids thanked me for not lying to them about Santa and they don’t seem to be missing out at all on the magic of Christmas (they have permission to “pretend” Santa as much as they want are haver been strictly told to “pretend along” should any child or adult approach them on the subject. More often it the adults pretending that they have to go along with than the kids.

    And I do have a picture of the kids with Santa and the screaming that happened that time was enough to keep it from ever happening again.

  • We went through the same thing last year when we adopted a family and we wanted to play Santa for the children. We ended up borrowing one.

    But, for not much more than the $19.99 you can buy a Santa Suit, sweet talk a relative/friend into playing Santa and have him show up for the picture. Then, you have a suit that can be used year after year. Plus, you have all the time you want to take really good pictures. It’s a good investment, really. 🙂

  • Like you, we have always been truthful with our kids that we are really Santa…they call us Mama and Daddy Clause when Christmas nears. 🙂 We just didn’t want to perpetuate a lie that we’d have to eventually come clean on and then have them wonder what *else* we might not have been truthful about.
    I will also say that our two youngest (3 and 5) still have a certain fascination with the man in the red suit and anytime they see him, they get excited. It’s so cute.

  • We also have decided not to lie to our children about Santa. I don’t feel scarred by having believed in him, but certain children definitely have the temperment that could be crushed when they find out mommy and daddy have been lying to them.

    We do have trouble knowing how often to bring it up (i.e. our 5yo comes home talking about the story the teacher read about Santa…do we remind him ‘you know that it’s just a story, right?’ or just leave it alone…)

  • Santa Claus has gone commercial. “Yes, you can see him and take a picture of your little ones looking annoyed while Santa stares blankly into space. But first, you must pay a fee.”

    (I had this exact same experience two years ago. We didn’t purchase a package, we didn’t take pictures and we haven’t been back since.)

  • That Santa on the fire engine must be a deep south thing. They used to do that when I lived in SC. Once when my kids were about 6 and 2, some older boys on bikes were going from house to house, following Santa, and taking the candy he was throwing from the yards. Boy, were they sorry they took the candy out of my yard…especially when the 2 year old started crying.

  • We’ve always built our tradition on the legend of St. Nicholas – and as our kids got older and wiser they were familiar with the magical secrecy that surrounds “Santa”. There was never an issue of Santa’s not “real” – because it’s not about a person dropping down the chimney, but a fun ritual of childhood.

  • We also decided not to “do” Santa. It’s really a struggle, because children love him so much. My church tradition has a deep love for St. Nicholas and my church celebrates St. Nicholas Day, as do we. My kids know that Santa Claus is a nickname for St. Nicholas, who IS real. But we’ve also told the kids that it’s ok to pretend about Santa and that he’s part of the fun of Christmas in our country. Fortunately, we’ve been moving further and further away from commercial Christmas celebrations (we don’t exchange gifts with most of our family, and we handmake most gifts for the grandparents), so there’s not much talk about Santa bringing things.

    I haven’t quite figured out what to do about stockings. This year St. Nicholas left gifts in their stockings on the 6th, so it really doesn’t make sense for themn to have things in their stockings Christmas morning, especially since my mom will have stockings for them. Hmmm. What to do?

    And your experience with the mall Santa is why I’ve never taken my children to see Santa. I hated going as a kid and since we don’t pump Santa at our house, it makes no sense to get a picture with some long-suffering person dressed up. Our kids receive a blessing from “St. Nicholas” who visits our celebration and that’s good enough.

  • We’re on the same Santa track as you guys. I never answer questions about him untruthfully, yet they just accept him as truth without question (so far).

    You know, the mall Santa thing makes me mad. They do that here, too. If I’m spending my money in your mall, it’s just good customer service to let my kid sit on Santa’s lap and name more toys for me to buy at your mall.

    What a ripoff!

  • I guess maybe I am the oddball here. Our experience with the mall santa’s the last 2 years have been awesome if a bit pricey, but they did have an option to just buy a cd of the pics for 18$ so i did that…we have too many who “need” pics.
    We do talk about santa and push santa, though they have a clue I am sure since Santa hides in my closet.

    last week K came home just crying his heart out, someone told him santa couldnt visit if we didnt have a chimney, so he was going to ask his Pop to come build him one. I told him we were coming to Nanas and she had a fireplace. Ahh the relief on his face…but after a few moments he told me I better quick call Pop to come get all the stuff Santa was hiding in my closet. *he also wanted to cart our tree and all extra items w/ us as well.*
    Steff

  • My kids always give us their letters and we email them to Santa. So, they are never bummed if they don’t get to actually SPEAK to Santa.

    I also have a letter that my kids receive from St. Nick when they hit an age where they might be prepared for the reality. They can take it however they want.

    Our daughter walked in at age eight and said, “There’s no tooth fairy, is there? It’s just you.”

    “Do you really want to know?”

    “Yup.”

    “No.”

    Silence.

    “Santa?”

    “Nope.”

    “Huh. Then, can I stay up and help put out presents this year?”

    My son is eight and got his letter from St. Nick this year. It actually SAYS that St. Nick lived long ago and it is his spirit that is carried on through Mom’s and Dad’s. Yet, my son chooses to believe that the letter actually came from St. Nick. He refuses to connect the dots. Good for him. When the time comes, he will allow his heart and his head to make the connection. Right now, he’s happy to stay on the childlike side of things.