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Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Secret Identity

"I can see your beard!"

"Of course! Everyone can see my beard!"

"No, your black beard!"

The small child on my lap is very excited. He has peeked behind the Christmas curtain and seen the backstage workings.

Or he is just being a brat. I can't decide which.

About a year ago, My Lovely Wife got us a Christmas gig as Santa & Mrs. Claus. It must be fate. I once played Santa Claus in a school choir performance years ago in junior high. The teacher wanted someone to play Santa while the choir sang, and literally everyone turned to look at me. I was a somewhat chubby kid, but my lovely wife says it's because I'm extra kind (In fact I just typed this part - Mrs.Claus). To quote Arthur, the young janitor in Miracle on 34th St., "The costume didn't have any padding, and I got my own padding." Mom and Granny were tickled by my performance, and it seemed to go well. My lines were non-existent I popped out from behind a chimney and put some toys in stockings. I had to laugh and shake my little belly, like a bowl full of jelly. Then laying a finger on the side of my nose, behind the chimney I rose. (Kudos to C. Clement Moore this is part of my new book "Confessions of a 7th grade Santa.)

The party from last year also seemed to go well, since they invited us back. My Lovely Wife says ( she's typing this right now) it's because we really love kids and love to give out and buy toys for them as much as the Clauses. Plus you can see both of us actually CARE when we are talking to them and taking pics with them. It's about the spirit of the man in the red suit ,more than just a party Santa.

I am the all-seeing Santa! I see all and know all! Yes, especially when you do that.

For the most part, being Santa is quite an easy job. I get paid quite well to sit. On a throne. And supplicants are brought before me. I can see why dictators and the royal family find this appealing. 

And most kids are overjoyed! They run at me and leap onto me and hug me. (Leaping can be problematic. My Lovely Wife played the Easter Bunny at a mall in New jersey long ago. She couldn't see a thing out of the eye holes, but she could hear a voice shout "I'm heavy!" Then she heard the tromping of running feet. Then she went bunny tail over tea kettle as the heavy child slammed into he and her chair. Then she was stuck on her back, more Easter Turtle than Easter Bunny, with all of the Easter balloons and decorations falling down around her.) Some of them are just so tickled to meet Santa! 

Lots of them need coaxing. Even though they have been talking to their parents for months about what they want for Christmas, the minute they seem me, they forget everything - even their names. Pretty much the way my wife would act if she ever met Hugh Jackman. 

My wife says"Take your shirt off Santa Wolverine-Gaaaaah...."

We chat with the kids and try to take a picture, then the big question. Have you been good this year? A lot of the kids who are terrified of Santa start to look really worried. Some of them have been Santa'd into submission with warnings that Santa's watching! It's a horrible way to use the jolly fat man, but My Lovely Wife said it was something that really worked on her sister - almost too well. Some kids are scared for a reason, because they are getting COAL. And my sister-in-law got some EVERY year because she was on the naughty list for a while. But we tell them if are nice till Christmas, it still counts. We want them all to have a very happy holiday and not to be scared of Santa. We want them to know that the holiday spirit is very real and exists in us, the embodiment of all things jolly and joyous, Santa and his Lovely Wife Mrs. C.

Next, the minions must ask for tribute, like in Game of Thrones. "Winter is Coming- the list is long." The tiny, clinging supplicants who climb on my lap must dictate their terms of enrichment. And the bounty most sought for in the land? TOYS! TOYS! TOYS!

This is where my lifelong obsession with toys comes in handy. Do you want a doll? (Yes.) What kind? (Either Barbie or American Girl. Buy stock in American Girl dolls. Practically every girl who sat on my lap wanted an American Girl doll.) A stuffed animal? Do you want video games? Xbox or Playstation? (Buy stock in Nintendo. Kids love the 3DS.) Happily, all the staples of my childhood were still popular: Tonka trucks, Hot Wheels, and Lego. (Before Lego got a Star Wars license, they made a generic Space Lego that was always my favorite.) 

Of course, not all the kids love Santa. Some are afraid of me. (There's a whole book about it.) And that's really more funny than sad. Why are you scared of Santa? He wants to give you presents! I'm nice! (Although it is ironic that protective parents tell their kids all year "Don't talk to strangers! Don't take candy from strangers!" And then they see me at a party and they cannot wait to throw their children at the strange, bearded man with a deep voice and funny clothes handing out candy canes.)

C'mon, kids! Santa's in the van! Really!

It's so cute to see a little boy plant his feet in the ground, lock his knees, and refuse to be dragged any closer to Santa. Honestly, it would hurt my feelings if it wasn't so darned cute. It's less cute when the child is placed kicking and screaming on my lap. Let's just say that most Santa costumes don't come with a protective cup.

Mrs. Claus and I always tell the parents to take the picture, screaming or not, since it's still a memory worth preserving. My very favorite picture from Christmas as a child is of me and my little brother sitting on Santa's lap at the mall. My brother looks to be maybe 18 months old, which puts me at around 5 years. In the photo, I am counting off my items on my fingers, all business, most likely asking for Star Wars stuff. (So much has changed since then!) My brother is screaming. He is screaming so loudly that it looks as though he is trying to unhinge his jaw like a boa constrictor trying to swallow a cow. To me, that photo is the Spirit of Christmas in miniature. 

There is a third group of kids, the slightly older ones who are a little too cool for the whole Santa business. You know the ones. They look for any slip of the beard. Any inconsistency, "You don't sound like the Santa I saw yesterday.""Are you really Santa?" I suppose it's karma, since I was exactly that kind of brat as a kid. And you just haven't lived until you try and debate the metaphysics of Santa Claus with a six year old. The elves are at the North Pole. They build the toys. Well, they are very good at making Kindles. Magic, that's how. Yes, Santa is everywhere. Just like Jesus. Just leave out chocolate chip cookies for me, all right? And carrots for the reindeer.

Which brings us back to the start of this post. At about hour 2.5 of a 3 hour party, my mustache started to wilt. Now, no one yanked it off, while screaming "LIAR!" I was sitting next to a space heater, and the combined effects of sweat and children siting on my beard caused it to droop. I tried to cover it as best I could while resetting my bobby pins, but one or two kids were telling me they saw my real mustache under the white one. Coal for you!

These are minor speed bumps. The kids are great, and it is amazing to be a part of someone's Christmas memories. There were also face painters at the party and one of the kids got a Santa beard and glasses painted. "I can help you do deliveries!" he said. That's a better gift than the the Blu-Ray player I asked Mrs. Santa for for Christmas.

It's fun to believe in Santa. Even when you're grown up and don't anymore, it's fun to remember the excitement you felt as a child. When you could believe in something good and magical.

(Like Santa Wolverine! - Mrs. Claus)

Merry Christmas!

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