This past Saturday, as I have for more than twenty years, I played Santa Claus for the kids party at the American Legion where my Dad is the Commander.
The day of the party I go to the local firehouse with the bag and the box that contains the Santa suit and the wig and the beard, the bells and all the other odds and ends that transform me into the Jolly Old Elf. I get dressed there and hop on the firetruck and we ride through town for a little while then the truck drops me off at the Legion where there's always a line of kids out the door waiting for Santa.
I go inside and sit on a chair in the kitchen with some of the Legionnaires helping hand out the bags of candy and the procession begins. Some kids will sit on my lap, others are afraid. Some are too young to even know why they're there and others are 12 or 13 and got dragged along by Mom and Dad with their younger siblings but they're too cool to buy into it 100 percent.
After about an hour the line ends but I usually remain in full Santa regalia for another 15 minutes or so because there always seems to be one or two latecomers and last Saturday was no different. Ten minutes after the last kid in line had gone, in walks a Mom and Dad with a little girl.
She had shoulder length red hair and wore a crimson velvet dress with an embroidered Santa Claus on it. She was five years old and looked like she came to the Legion straight from the set of a Christmas movie.
She came into the kitchen and stood right in front of me with the biggest smile on her face.
I asked her if she wanted to sit on Santa's lap. She didn't hesitate, "Yes!" So I helped her up on my lap and asked her her name and how old she was. She told me and then I asked her if she'd been a good girl this year. She answered almost before I'd finished the question, "Oh yes!"
I asked her what she hoped to get from Santa Claus this year and she leaned over, put her hand up to my ear and whispered to me what was on her list.
After she finished I told her to be a good girl for Mom and Dad and that Santa would do his best to bring her everything she wanted for Christmas. Then I helped her down and gave her her little bag of goodies and she said, "Oh thank you Santa!"
Then before she reached up to take her Mom's hand to leave she said, "Santa? I have a present for you!"
I was taken a little by surprise. I said, "You do?" She said, "Yes!" And she handed me an envelope.
I opened it up and inside was a piece of folded paper. I took it out of the envelope and unfolded it. It was a page from a coloring book. On the page was a picture of a Christmas tree that she had colored especially to give to Santa.
And on the envelope in her five year old handwriting were the words. "Dear Santa, I love you!"
I said thank you and told her how much I loved her present. Her smile got even bigger somehow and she threw her arms around my neck and held on for what seemed like a full minute. Then she whispered, "I love you Santa Claus." and she and her Mom and Dad were on their way.
I like to think I don't get choked up too easily but maybe I do.
I too played Santa the Saturday before last for my company's childrens Christmas Party. I was asked to be Santa because I was told that they wanted someone fun and outgoing this year. I think it was because the suit fit. My two boys are older so I looked forward to the task with some trepidation. It was one of the best times I had seeing the sparkle of believing in Santa in the children's eyes. Two hours and 200 some odd children later I believe that they had a good time....I had a better time.I was amused and humbled by the "wants" requested of Santa. From the child who couldnt tell me exactly what he wanted because he had a list to some very modest requests. I look forward to being Santa again next year...if the suit still fits.
If it's not to late-would you honor my request for Christmas by delivering me a beautiful 25yr. year old blonde with a body that won't quit!! (My wife said she wouldn't mind at all, as long as you can also deliver a Gucci Watch and a nice pair of diamond errings). Thank you so much Santa---------