It doesn’t help that there are kindly gentlemen everywhere donned in Santa suits, sporting fluffy white beards, real or fake. Of course, I think we can all agree the real Santa needs all the help he can muster getting ready for the big day. I was in the local garden center yesterday purchasing a couple of bedding plants when Santa walked up pulling a little wagon loaded up with bags of mulch. I love how this time of year Santa is out there spreading my kind of Christmas cheer. I mean … how can you not smile?
And over the years, we have had many encounters with such awesome Santa dudes. There have been lots of “mall” Santas for sure. You have to give them credit. It has gotta be a tough job with all that crying and carrying on. You would think the little kids were visiting their pediatrician for a check-up and a shot, instead of a photo and a candy cane.
My favorite mall Santa photo was snapped when our Ricky was little, probably two or three years old. While waiting in the line, Ricky was clearly projecting nervous vibes in Santa’s direction. It didn’t get any better when his two smiling sisters showed him how harmless the guy was while getting their photo made with Santa. I’m not sure how I talked the hubster into sitting on Santa’s lap with a crying Ricky, but we got the shot. Priceless.
It was probably 30 years ago when we had a neighbor on the block that dressed up as Santa. He went from house-to-house and paid all the kids a visit. His real name was Sam and he had this great booming voice. When Santa said, “ho-ho” you knew he meant business. It could have been that defining “Santa love” moment for our special child, Mimi, who is perpetually stuck mentally being two or three years old. To Mimi … Santa will always be “Ho-Ho.”
When Mimi was in middle school there was a special needs Christmas event she was going to miss. She was feeling fine but still recovering from orthopedic surgery. The Santa that year, his real name is Sparky, found out that Mimi wasn’t going to make it. So before the party, Santa Sparky swung by our house, with all his “elves,” AND brought a bag of presents. Who does that?
There is one special Santa that still pays Mimi a visit … and on Christmas Eve night for the past … I don’t know how many years. He always calls me a couple weeks before the big day. Actually, Jeb missed one year when he broke his leg. And he felt really bad about not making it. Can you imagine? You should hear the way he says, “ho-ho-ho” under his breathe. It’s pretty cool.
I met Jeb about ten years ago. He drove the shuttle bus at a local hotel. I worked part-time in the back office for several years. One day that first fall, Jeb told me about how every year he grew out his beard to play Santa … and he owned three Santa suits. I’m serious.
It was that year at the hotel’s Christmas party Mimi first met Jeb. Staff and their family were all invited to the festivities. I will never forget when we wheeled her wheelchair through the automatic doors. Jeb was all decked out in his Santa suit and handing out presents. When Santa and Mimi locked eyeballs, it was love at first sight.
And Santa Jeb has been coming to our house ever since, spreading Christmas cheer and lots of hugs all around. Each year is a gift. I know one of these years I will not be getting that phone call that Jeb is able to come to see Mimi. He moved a few years ago and his health is not the best. But for all the times Santa Jeb has made it by our house to spread his special kind of joy … I have to say … it has been a privilege for me to play the part of stinky chopped liver.