What I Did Last Sunday Afternoon

If you’ve seen the picture at the top of the page, you might have a guess. But that’s more than just a festive decoration. That’s me.

For the last six years, my wife and I do a one-afternoon-only turn as Santa and Mrs. Claus for a local museum of sorts. We don’t get paid, although they do rent the costumes for us, and we usually get to take home some of the leftover cookies that they’ve baked on the premises that day.

After doing it so many years, my wife and I have a great system worked out for surprising the kids, She greets them and gets their names while I pretend I’m doing something else. Then she says, “I’ll bet Santa remembers you,” at which time I greet them by the names I’ve gotten seconds earlier – and, not seeing the trick, they’re floored.

My wife and I play off of each other very well, and it’s a matter of pride that some parents have told the powers-that-be at the museum that they had the best Santa they’d ever seen. The great thing is when a kid is overheard saying, “That’s the real Santa Claus!”

It’s also fun to torment some of the older kids who are at the age where they are “too cool for Santa” by hugging them. And on the other side of that age, some late teens and even adults like to come sit next to me on the bench and pretend for a couple of minutes that it’s all real.

I’ve also had to pick up some tricks over the years. Like telling kids that I need parental permission before delivering a live animal. And that, sorry, as much as I’d like to be, someone else is in charge of Peace on Earth. Fortunately, I didn’t get any requests for the Browns to go to the Superbowl this year.

Then there are the kids. I don’t consider myself a kid person at all – I liked mine, and with a few exceptions, can do without most, but this day is an exception. That’s because you never know what the day will bring. I sometimes get handwritten lists or pictures brought in (Mrs. Claus discreetly tries to slip those back to the parents if they want them). Sometimes I get hugs. There are the requisite number of frightened kids (hint: if your child is scared, it’s okay – try again next year – don’t do what one set of parents did and held the line up while waiting for the terrified, squirming toddler they’d plopped into my lap to quit moving long enough for a photo). This year a girl asked if my beard was real. I said, “You want to pull it and find out?” That was good enough for her, but if she’d taken me up on it, I was going to give her a hearty “Ouch!”

Sometimes there are things you don’t expect. One year an autistic boy was freaked out by my painted-on white eyebrows. This year a girl asked for an electric scooter for her friend who has cancer.

I think the reason I like doing it so much is that it’s only one afternoon a year. Any more, and it would be too much like a job. And it’s funny – it seems like the last couple of years I’ve been rather Scrooge-ish heading in to do it, but by the time I’m done, I’m glad that I went through with it. It used to take me until about a week before Christmas for the holiday spirit to hit, but this is a nice jump start. I think my family appreciates me being into the holiday earlier than it used to be.

Meantime, I should be finishing the second draft of A Father Christmas this week – reading party to come soon after that, I hope. What a great time to be finishing a play about Christmas.

Remember when we were hand in hand
Remember we sealed it with a golden band
Now your eyes don’t meet mine, you’ve got a pulse like fever
Do I take you for a lover or just a deceiver?

(via iTunes shuffle play)

(Thanks to Brad R. for the photo!)


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