Monday, December 24, 2007

merry merry

While the rest of you are wearing pajamas, making cinnamon rolls, and doing other Christmas-related FUN (in your PJ's! at home!). I'm here, rusty on the internet, wearing worky clothes and thinking wistfully of a warm bed, fuzzy cats, and an even fuzzier husband (just kidding, Chip!!!).

I was cracking up the other day at the Scared of Santa gallery courtesy of the lovely Linda.

It got me thinking about a time last year, when my office was frighteningly close to a pretty posh mall. We’re talking FREAKISHLY CLOSE. This particular mall has a very nice Santa who has been doing the gig for years. He’s what they call an “unconventional Santa” meaning he doesn’t wear the traditional red velvet coat with the white trim. This Santa doesn’t even wear the hat. He provides his own clothing – various funny flannel shirts, suspenders, boots, and red velvet pants. Think less Santa-on-his-Big-Night-Out and more Santa-tinkering-in-his-workshop-with-the-elves. The cool thing about this particular Santa is that he pretty much EXUDES a Santa vibe. Maybe because he doesn’t need all the extra get-up to really look the part. His beard is real. As are the rosy cheeks.

I made all of these observations last year because I regularly ate lunch with Santa. No – not really ate WITH the guy, but we’d find ourselves eating in the same establishments at the mall. As I ate my food, I’d catch myself staring off at Santa, wondering about the guy. Did he like kids? Did he do this for a paycheck alone? Was he someone who loved to bring Christmas Cheer to people, even in his off hours – or would he find himself stripping off the Santa gear the second he walked through his door, so happy to be rid of it for a while? What an interesting gig – doing the Santa thing, taking pictures. Asking random kids what they want for Christmas. Making some of them cry. Making others pee their pants from the sheer excitement. (I’m thinking of Buddy the Elf: SANNNNNNNNNNNNTA!!!!! I KNOW HIM!!!!!) Do all these Santa’s realize that they, by their very dress and location, are the EMBODIMENT of Christmas to some kids? The closest they’ll come to touching a living, breathing dream.

This mall Santa from last year was an interesting puzzle for me. I wondered a lot just how he handled the fame and recognition. Every time I saw him, he was alone. He ate lunch at Panera a lot – getting soup and some kind of sandwich, usually while reading a newspaper. On one particular day I was pleased to see that I was behind him in line, and I could easily see the response from kids in the restaurant as he walked by. Their eyes went WIDE as they pulled on a parent’s pant leg, whispering – DO YOU SEE WHO THAT IS? I’m sure Santa was quite aware of the reaction – and probably had seen it a million times. He ordered his lunch and quietly found a table. Sitting there, about to take a bite, a tiny girl around 4 slipped past his elbow. “Excuse me, Santa…” The guy didn’t need to look up. He was, after all, on his lunch break. But he did look up – and gave this little girl the biggest Santa smile I’d ever seen. His cheeks crinkled into round apples and he said something I couldn’t hear. The girl smiled and laughed and shook his hand before running back to her mom at a nearby table.

It makes sense that he didn't need the extra coat and hat to be Santa Claus. I'm so glad he takes his job seriously. Here's wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas and a very enjoyable new year.


Chip said...

Well, I am wearing my warm fuzzy P-jama, MC-Hamma pants! (Cant touch this!) Come home quickly cuz the cats and I miss you, and we have hot white-chocolate milk waiting

stacie d said...

as you know, i'm at work too. suffering through a slow, quiet, boring day...anxious to go see my family! thanks for keeping me company via email.

i love the santa story! it reminded me how my grandpa used to grow his white beard long in december & wear a santa hat. i always got to have santa in my house on christmas morning!

merry christmas!