Today is a good day. That may sound strange, since I’m not feeling well, but it is a good day, just the same. I just got home from taking a friend to work (the second time today I’ve given someone a ride to work) and here I sit loaded on Tylenol Cold Medicine, smoking the rest of a cigar that I didn’t finish two days ago and writing to you. Plus, its raining outside and I likes da rain. I like the sound of thunder and the site of distant (very distant) lightning, because it puts me in a storytelling mood. And I got a good one for you today. It’s my favorite Christmas story; after all, ’tis the season.
Several years ago, I was dating a girl that had a three-year-old daughter. Now, those of you who know me, know I’m not so good with kids, especially the very young. They leak out of every orifice and they’re not housebroken. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t like kids; I really do. It’s just that I prefer the ones that can tell me why they are crying and can wipe their own ass.
Now Katie (that’s the daughter’s name), was at that crossroads between toddler and kid. Now that’s a really cool time, ’cause they’ll believe anything you tell ’em.
On with the story: Katie’s mom asked me one day if I would consider playing Santa at her family Christmas party. Katie has a couple of cousins and she thought this would make our first (and only) Christmas together one to remember. I readily agreed and set out to find a suitable Santa costume. Apparently some greater power was pleased by these events, because the next weekend, I found the perfect Santa suit at a flea market. I purchased said suit for a really decent price and was sure that Katie and cousins would approve of the Santa threads (her mother really dug ’em too, but that’s a different story).
When I got home and tried on the Santa suit, it became obvious that Katie would recognize me in a second. Katie was a bright three-year-old and she loved her some Santa Claus. Far to soon in this world all of the magic of being a kid is taken from us. There was no way I was going to let Katie find out that there was no Santa on my watch. So I set my fevered mind to fixing this problem, while still giving the youngsters a kick-ass Santa experience.
The problem deepened when it was decided by the family that the Santa thing wasn’t a good idea for the party. I don’t remember what the reason was, but it was certainly done for sound reasons; her parents are good people. This kicked me in the pants because I was all gung-ho about getting the Santa thing happening. I was even considering hiring an actor to play Santa, which would have dug deep into my wallet, since it was Christmas Eve. But now there was no need and I just wasted my money on the suit. Then, in that moment, when all seemed lost, an idea began to form. The party may be out, but I can still entertain Miss Katie, and if she never sees my face, she won’t know it’s me.
So here’s how it went down: Christmas Eve morning, while Katie was being distracted, I took all the presents from their various hiding places and put them in the barn (they have a nice farm). Katie was particularly well-behaved that day, because we had deployed the old parental leverage of Santa doesn’t bring toys to bad girls (as we find out later in life, Santa likes bad girls, again, another story), so distracting her wasn’t that hard. We enjoyed a quiet evening of watching Christmas shows and put one excited little girl to bed about 9 p.m. Much to my surprise, even through the excitement, she fell asleep quickly. Which was good, because I got me some Santa time (refer back to anther story reference)!
Here’s the plan: I set the alarm clock for 4 a.m., go out to the barn, put the presents too big to put in the bag, under the tree, fill big red velvet bag with the rest of the presents, don Santa Suit, wait in kitchen, mother wakes up daughter, sneaks around corner to see the back of Santa, putting presents under tree. All went well as planned except for one little hitch. Katie, woke up at 3 a.m. I awoke to the hysterical cry of, and I quote “I’ve been bad, Santa didn’t bring me anything!” So to avert the possibility of faith in Santa being spoiled, we sprang into action. Mother went to comfort daughter; I dressed warmly and went to the barn. Carefully and quietly I placed the bigger presents under the tree and then slipped into my Santa duds, loaded the rest of the presents in to my big red bag and went back into the house in full St. Nick mode. With a hearty stomp of heavy booted right foot, the signal was passed to begin the show. I heard the shuffle of tiny feet (Katie and her mother, were both small) and I started my act. With a heart felt ho-ho-ho, I almost fooled myself into believing that I was Father Christmas for a moment. Then I sat my sack down and started placing the remaining presents under the tree. I suddenly became aware that Santa wasn’t animated enough, so I began to sing the only Christmas song that I could think of, Jingle Bells. That turned out to be a cool choice, because Katie knows it by heart also. As I continued to lay presents about the tree, I danced. I danced something that would be best described as a cross between the Twist and the Funky Chicken. I was either really good at it or really bad, because it certainly amused my audience. I decided to wrap this up quickly, because Katie had seen me dance before and I didn’t want her to become suspicious. So I gave the other predetermined signal and said in my best North Pole voice, “Ho-Ho-Ho, well, Santa has to go now” and started walking toward the fireplace. Katie was ushered back to her room and I ran into the master bedroom and at a frantic pace and removed the Santa costume. I had just got under the covers, when a three-year-old streak of lightning came bursting into the room and announced, “Santa was here and he was shaking his booty!” Well, obviously, sleeping was out of the question from that point on. So we arose and opened presents before sunrise.
Now the story could end there, but there is one more short chapter I’d like to add. Katie in no way showed any clue that she might think it was me in Santa drag, but that thought kinda nagged at me, that maybe she would put it together. If that happened, then some of the magic of Christmas would be gone for her and I didn’t want that to be my fault. As all else that made this day great, the answer to that question came quite by chance, later that day. Before, I go further, let me be clear here. Obviously one day, Katie will learn that there is no Santa Claus. For several years after that realization, kids will still stand in line, sit in Santa’s lap (who is now a stranger with a fake beard) and pose for uncomfortable photos. And they do this because they know tha’s the quickest way to get that new Playstation they can’t live without. But there is a time before that, between infancy and kid-dom, when Christmas is full of wonder. As long as that magic could stay, I wanted it to. Later that same evening, after family had been visited, turkey and pie had been consumed, we decided to take Katie to her very first movie. I was a little worried that maybe she would become bored and restless. She did not; she watched intently and with awe. Not only that, she remembered the name and plot of the movie, days later.
While we were seating ourselves (back row, center, my choice every time), a family of about seven or eight people sat themselves in the row in front of us. But they were one seat short and the elderly gentleman that was with them opted to sit at the end of our row. He was about my height, white hair, white beard and he was about the same size as me, with a pillow stuffed under my shirt. I glanced at the man several times during the course of the movie, to size him up for a plan I was forming. When the movie ended, much to my delight, the old man sat and waited for us to cross in front of him before he got up. As Katie passed him, I said, “Look Katie, it’s Santa Claus.” Before you could bat an eye, Katie was in his lap, hugging him and thanking him for the presents, and he was overjoyed by the attention. The magic was intact and I hope she can believe in Santa ’til she’s got kids of her own.
I haven’t seen Katie for several years now. Her mother and I went our separate ways and last I heard, she had married. I wish them both the best and if they ever read this, I want to say thanks again, for one of the best Christmas memories of my life.