A guest post by Grant Tolley
For all of our married life, my Beloved’s and my favourite Christmas story (other than the one in the Book of Luke) has been the movie Miracle on 34th Street (the original – we haven’t quite brought ourselves to see the recent version). A perfect story, perfectly written and superbly presented on-screen by perfectly-cast actors and actresses. I think we have worn out three or four different copies of the movie. I know that the story and character of Kris Kringle inspired Diane to write her three stories about Kris which have been published as novels (see the sidebar to this column if you haven’t noticed them before. Read them. I promise you won’t be sorry).
I myself have always identified with the Kris Kringle character, for some reason. I have always been in awe of the perfect love that Kris held for everyone he met, but in particular for the kids.
All of this led me several years ago to ask my Beloved Diane – superb seamstress that she is – if she would make me a ‘really nice’ Santa Claus suit and herself a Mrs. Santa dress, so that we could be Santa and Mrs. Santa at Christmas. I think I envied Kris Kringle. I wanted to experience what Kris experienced in the movie when he so joyously put those children, totally unknown to him (but then again maybe not), on his knee in Macy’s Department Store and talked and sang with them, and hugged and loved them.
So, my Beloved complied and created the outfits you see above. I told you she was talented, no? And some years ago, we began going out and about, visiting families and church halls and office parties and hotel ballrooms, as Santa and Mrs. Santa.
I thought I would share with you some special experiences that I feel we have stolen from Kris Kringle. I could write a book. Literally. But I will resist, in favour of reporting a few things that happened last weekend as Mrs. Santa and I went out in our 1979 Buick sleigh, into the delightful Christmas world.
I am in the habit of lifting the kids and putting them on whichever of my knees is aching the least that particular day. I ask their names, their ages, about their school-work, their home, families, whether they fight with their siblings, and inquire about their love for their parents. Eventually I get to: “What would you like for Christmas?”
Now you can probably imagine the wide range of answers that Santa gets to that particular question. Answers have ranged all the way from “I don’t know yet, Santa”, to “a candy-red Lamborghini”, to “a billion dollars”. Last weekend, a young mother put a precious 5-year-old boy on my knee, Bobby. Next to Mom was Husband-Dad, on crutches and sporting a large cast on his right leg. “What would you like for Christmas, Bobby?” “I want my Dad’s leg to get better.” Some inquiries indicated that Dad had been badly injured in a work accident. While I was trying to swallow the lump in my throat, Bobby continued. “So he can wrestle with me some more.” Two lumps later, Santa did his best to grant Bobby’s wish with guarantees of good doctors and nurses and medicine to help Dad’s leg to heal, and abundant best wishes for good health and many future wrestling matches – which (just whispered between Bobby and me) I guaranteed Bobby would win. I wish I had a picture of Bobby’s smile.
A little later came Ava, a precious 8-year-old. As I propped her on my knee and inquired about her life in Grade Three, I noticed that she was not very exuberant about much of anything. “What would you like for Christmas, Ava?” “I’d like for my Daddy to get better.” “Is your Daddy not feeling well?” I inquired. “No,” said Ava, dropping her eyes and her heart. “He’s got cancer.”
Now I know that I paused for a very long time there; I lost count of the number of lumps I swallowed, to try to carry on. Ava was very forgiving of the long silence, and snuggled into my furry red coat. I know that I eventually said a few words of encouragement to her, but I don’t really remember what they were. But what has stuck with me ever since, and will for the rest of my life, is the pure love that emanated from little Ava as she snuggled into my red coat. In a time and a season where commercialism and self-interest and greed try to overtake us, Ava had thoughts only for someone else. I learned much in those few moments. From an 8-year-old.
My Beloved will tell you that I have always been a pushover when it comes to 3-year-old princesses. (Diane was a little older than that when she first pushed me over, but that’s another story). As I sat in my Santa chair on the weekend, a 3-year-old whose name I have forgotten saw Santa at the other end of the hall. She literally peeled her coat off and threw it over her shoulder in the general direction of a mother, yelled “Santa!!!” and then sprinted across the room and threw herself into my arms. I got one of the firmest, warmest, longest, loving-est hugs from a very small someone I did not know, but who knew me. And loved me.
I do not envy Kris Kringle any longer. But I fully intend to keep encroaching on his turf. He’s got a really good thing going.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace on earth, good will, and love to you all.
From Santa Claus.