QotD: Is That You Santie Claus?

It was the late 1960s in department store in Saint John, New Brunswick. I was 4 or 5, dressed up in my green velvet dress with a white lace collar, standing with my father at the end of a long line of rowdy kids and frazzled parents.  The line looped back on itself three or four times before reaching the platform where, one at a time, kids were escorted up to Santa’s throne to sit on his lap, whisper their secret wishes and have their annual photo taken for the grandparents.

Stink Weed & Dad

We were a little different than the other families in line.  Firstly, all of the other families were being herded by a mom – pretty ladies in their skirts and heels trying to juggle packages, bags, mittens, hats and kids.

Secondly, Dad was one of only four men in the line, the only one there as primary kid-wrangler.

Thirdly, other than the man we were all there to see, dad was the only person there with a beard, a big black beard and thick military-style black-rimmed glasses.

Finally, while the adults in line kept taking sidelong glances at us, I stood quietly holding my father’s hand  staring openly at their kids.

I’m an only child and it was absolutely fascinating to see other kids jacked up on sugar, squished all into a line and coping with the excitement and 30-minute wait to seeing Santa up close. Kids were ducking back and forth under the ropes. Swinging from their mother’s purses. Kicking each other. Screaming. Pulling off their winter clothes and dumping them in a piles all over the place. There were even a couple of kids crying.

Near the front of the line there was one little girl in tears.  Her older brother, who was only eight or nine himself, was trying to reassure her. When it was his sister’s turn to go up, she was still terrified and hanging white knuckled to her mother.  Her brother pushed in front of her, walked right up the stairs to Santa and just before he was about to sit down, he stopped.  He looked Santa square in the face, and then he reached out and tugged on Santa’s beard.

There was a gasp from the line-up as the beard came completely off leaving a clean-shaven man, dressed as Santa, sitting on the throne looking a bewildered and foolish.

Dad
The boy turned around, and triumphantly waving Santa’s beard in the air said “That’s not Santa,” he looked around and gestured to the back of the line, That’s Santa!” 

Everyone turned to look where he was pointing.  I looked up at the man holding my hand.  Dad looked nervous.

We rushed out of the store leaving a trail of kids yelling out their Christmas wishes and parents yelling out other things.

5 thoughts on “QotD: Is That You Santie Claus?

  • December 30, 2006 at 5:19 pm
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    [this is good] Hi-LAR-ious! I knew Santa wasn’t at the North Pole! He’s on an island off the east coast…….

    Reply
  • December 31, 2006 at 4:01 pm
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    What a unique memory of visiting Santa.

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  • January 2, 2007 at 2:07 pm
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    Thanks. There is a corrolary that happened 5 or 6 years back when I went down to visit just before Xmas on an unseasonally warm year.

    I’d heard some stories. Dad’s beard, as you can see in the photo, is now completely white and he has taken to wearing a red baret in December. He keeps a note pad in his pocket so when he is approached he can pull it out and ask <em>”have you been a good little girl?”</em> (or boy). I’d been told about the family bringing a new baby home stopping him on the road to ask for a photo because it would be easier for the older child to accept the baby if Santa was involved. 

    But I didn’t realized, until that visit, how true these stories were.

    Dad & I went into town one day and as we walked down the street every second person who passed us did a double-take. Sk8rs called out, voices dripping with sarcasm and tinted with wishfulness, asking if he was bringing them anything. Women giggled and told him they’d been “very good” and asking if they could sit in his lap. We walked by one little girl who completely froze. Still hanging on to her mom’s hand she was dragged halfway across an intersection before her mother noticed she wasn’t moving. Luckily there wasn’t any traffic. The mother stopped, grabbed her daughter by the shoulder and said “What’s wrong!?!”. The little girl, who couldn’t have been more than five, stammered “Mommy,look, it’s”, her voice dropped to a whisper, “Santa”. The mother looked annoyed, looked up, and then did her own double-take. She shook it off and dragged her kid into the mall saying “Come on. We’re going to see the real santa.”

    I never really “believed”, even as a kid, but it’s pretty hard not to when everyone else sees him standing right beside you.

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  • December 25, 2007 at 3:58 pm
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    [this is good] love this story!!

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  • December 26, 2007 at 10:42 am
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    He could always shave it off, but it’s such a wonderful source of fun tales – good and bad – that I’m sure he’d smack me for even suggesting it. 

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