Santa’s life is not an easy one. Oh, there is plenty of the joy and happiness and ho-ho-ho laughter, all those things that Santa stands for in the world. But in today’s enlightened, social-media-friendly world where information can be passed seemingly faster than the speed of light, Santa faces several conundrums that are not easily dealt with.
Case in point: Santa’s 3-year old granddaughter, Linnea, whom we most affectionately call Linnie, she of the firm mind and undaunted spirit. Linnie, along with her 12 cousins of the Santa and Mrs. Santa lineage, had observed in our Claus career last year that Grandma and Grandpa would occasionally put on the red velvet suits and go out and about as the happy couple. The questions were inevitable, so Grandma Claus and I decided to be proactive and tell them all the truth before the questions started – that Grandma and Grandpa were only some of Santa’s ‘helpers’, because the real Santa needed lots of helpers to visit all the little boys and girls in the world. The plan worked well – last year.
So this year, little Linnie was present when Santa emerged from his ‘dressing room’ – and Linnie’s face lit up like the star on top of the Christmas tree.
“Grandpa, you’re Santa Claus, aren’t you.” No question – more of a declaration.
I started in with my pre-arranged explanation. “Well, Linnie, Grandpa is not Santa, I’m only one of his . . . “
Linnie interrupted, fists on hips and with a stern look on her face which said that she wasn’t putting up with any more of Grandpa’s stories. “NO, Grandpa!” She said, with a look that would put any man to cringing in his fur-topped boots. “You ARE Santa!”
And she stormed away, having put both Grandpa and Santa Claus in their rightful place.
I guess I’ll just have to live with it.
Santa survived that encounter with a sure-minded 3-year old to enjoy something in the neighbourhood of about seven hundred children on his knee this Christmas season. I am pleased to report that my knees survived, along with the rest of me. (It was only due to the TLC that Mrs. Santa brings along on every visit).
I have spent my life studying people, and the Santa believers are the most interesting people I have ever encountered. About 75% of the under 2 crowd will NOT go anywhere near Santa, suffering from what social scientists call ‘coulrophobia’: fear of clowns. I understand this affliction perfectly. Whenever I look in the mirror, I wonder that anyone would want to come near. We always reassure the parents of the coulrophobic little ones that “s/he’ll feel better about Santa next year.”
At the other end of the spectrum are the late pre-teen crowd, who have discovered the truth about Santa and who are reluctant to sit on my knee and participate in what they feel is an elaborate deception, somehow meant to make them seem silly. Many of them will still come, reluctantly, and I try to reassure them that they are not silly, rather that they are only helping to bring some happiness into a world that desperately needs more of it.
The middle grouping, from about age 3-10, are the smiling, happy crowd for whom Santa exists fully and benevolently. And this is my report card for 2014: the world of my future will be in good hands, because today there are THOUSANDS of young ones who have a smile that will not stop. From 5-year old Arrabella whose smile was so infectious I still smile to myself, filled with the love of happy child, when I think of it; to 10-year old Jake, afflicted with Down’s, whose smile told me that even with his challenges in life he was as happy a young man as he could be.
This smile phenomenon tells Santa much, without a word being spoken. It tells me that today’s parents are in fact bringing their children up in happiness, teaching them, raising them with love and a hope for a better future. It tells me that in a world that appears on all fronts to be going to pot, that there are still plenty of smiles out there amongst what I can only conclude to be the quiet – and happy – majority. Yes, of course there is much to be done, much sadness to banish – but there are plenty of smiles out there with which to fight the good fight.
It tells me there is hope for the future. And that any time now, when my daughter puts me in a seniors’ rest home as she often threatens to do when I tell groaner jokes or silly stories, that there will be plenty of smiling people around to look after me, when I need it the most.
I’m glad to have had every one of those 700-odd smiles this year. I hereby dub 2014 the Year of the Smile!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a very merry 2015!