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?”
“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.