Wednesday, December 20, 2006

spreading holiday love

Here is an old post reheated for some fresh holiday cheer. Have a good one!!

Okay, time to take it down a notch. How about a good xmas story?

Reader, you may be unaware of this, but I was a Santa’s Helper for three years running. In a mall, of course. I did grow up in suburbia, after all.

This is humorous in that I really don't have a liking for children. I don't necessarily dislike them perse, they just aren't my thing. Thus, my employment as a Santa’s helper was pretty much a nice seasonal gig for some extra moola.

I started being a Santa’s helper when I was 21. Old enough to drink and vote, and pretty much old enough to have quite the cynical eye about what was going on.

There was the Santa Claus who worked there every year. He had been doing it for fifteen years, mostly for the happiness it brought the children. He was pleasant enough, though mildly lecherous behind the scenes. At least once a night he would offer me a "ride in his sleigh, ho ho ho".

Then there was the Santa Claus who had just gotten out of the navy. The ink was still fresh on his tattoos below the Santa suit. We went on a couple of dates, but I was a bit put off because this Santa was more interested in the naughty girls - if you know what I mean - wink wink nudge nudge. Yes, I was rather a prude once upon a time. Hard to believe now, but back to my story.

My favorite was the Santa who had an electronic tether on his ankle. You know, an at home prison monitoring system. He was allowed to get groceries and go to work, but that was it. I don't know what he was convicted of, but he did not have wandering hands so I'm thinking it wasn't necessarily bad for him to be around children. Just funny in that who would think your local Santa was a convict? Not a bad idea to ask around about that kind of thing, huh?

Santa had a pretty crappy job. Parents waited with eager children for over an hour for their chance to chat with that jolly figure.

An hour in line with sugar and toy crazy children could wear down a saint, and most parents when they got to the end were pretty much at the end of their rope.

There is a little known fact that there is a five foot force field that surrounds most Santa Clauses. It is not detectable by adults, but when a child crosses it they experience an unbelievable amount of terror and freeze on the spot. Thus the child not only tends to scream, cry, and flail in fear at Santa, but quite often pees on him as well.

When a child would pee on Santa what would we do? Why, put the kids on the other knee, of course. Santa got to change only when both legs got wet.

So now you have the terrified child crying horribly on Santa’s lap, and an exhausted parent who waited for an hour for this glorious moment to be recorded forever by photograph or video. (No DVD yet, this was some time ago.) The parent would not give in lightly, Santa had to keep each crying child on his lap for at least five minutes while we tried in vain to get a smile, grin, or at least a calm look for the photograph.

I became very good at the line "Can we just take the picture now? I promise some day when he/she is all grown up you will look at this picture and laugh..."

I offered to work the register a lot.

When you worked the video camera you got the best insight of all, because Santa wore a microphone. I overheard all kinds of requests for puppies, bikes, skateboards, and video games. But a few wishes stick out in my mind.

I remember the little girl who told Santa that she did not want any toys this year, she just wanted Santa to help her dad find a job.

Or the little boy who wished that Santa would deliver a gift to his little sister; he didn't need anything - he just could not bear to see her get let down.

Or the little boy who wished that his mother would get over her cancer.

These things really happened. The christmas spirt really does exist. There is kindness and generosity in this word, and children can be beautiful, gentle, and pure.

When you are Santa, how do you respond? You only have a minute to reply.

The Santas were pretty good, they would say something like "I'll do the best I can, but this is something that I don't know if I or the elves can really do anything about. You have been very good all year, keep praying and we will try our best."

The children believed that Santa would try, and that is what really counted.

The amazing thing is that the children had no idea how much they had given to us. Faith in humankind is hard to come by.

On that note, I wish you and yours a safe, merry, and happy christmas. And a hope that we all can believe that Santa Claus will continue to try.

(originally posted 12/25/04)

1 comment:

Paul said...

They just played a This American Life marathon in Detroit, including David Sedaris' story of being an elf at Macy's. Speaking of TAL, did you see this about the
TV show: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6582562