Fifteen Santa Clauses…


Fifteen Santa Clauses…

Somewhere along the journey, it became very complicated.  The other day a friend shared something she had read, “In your lifetime, the average person gets 10 really good Christmases.” Isn’t that astounding?  How is it even factored? How does one research or gauge what qualifies as a really good Christmas?

Fifteen Santa Clauses…

To be sure the Christmases of my childhood are really good in memory.  The buildup, the lists, the baking, cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and the soft glow of a candle in the window of your bedroom as you fell asleep each Advent night.

My mom loved to tell the tale of one of my earliest Christmas lists for Santa.  She was befuddled by the very first item: A Layaway Doll.  She called her friends, mothers of other girls my age, wondering if they knew of this doll.  They knew of Barbie and Chatty Cathy, and Teensy Tears, but hadn’t seen an advertisement for a Layaway Doll.  My mom was a Christmas pleaser – gift giving with precision was her thing – and she certainly wouldn’t ask me for clarification on the off-chance it would prod any suspicion of Santa Claus.

Her version of the story had my Dad walking into the kitchen one mid-December Sunday afternoon laughing with pride,

“Louise”, he whispered.  “The Layaway Doll she wants – Sears is advertising “layaway” for Christmas.”

“What does that mean, layaway?”, she was confused

“It’s a thing Sears is doing.  You put a down payment on something you want for Christmas, and pay in installments. She must have seen the commercial.”

This was troubling for mom, as it’s almost impossible for Santa to be precise with a doll that doesn’t actually exist.  She casually asked me why I wanted a Layaway Doll instead of Chatty Cathy.  My answer, “It’s a doll who has to wait for you, so it needs extra love.”

That Christmas morning my Layaway Doll was under the tree.  She was 3 feet tall, and loose-limbed, with blonde hair, and wore a pink smocked baby doll dress.  I named her Ella and loved her with all my heart.  An adopted child, adopting a doll one needed to wait for, to have patience for, who needed to be loved. Isn’t that something?

Fifteen Santa Clauses…

The best Christmases of my life, post-childhood, are easy to pinpoint. Being in love at Christmas is wonderful and I have been fortunate in my life to have that more than once, and hold hope that I will again, someday.  The best Christmases, however, are seen through the magic of your own children’s eyes, when they still believe in Santa Claus and are enraptured with the story of the Baby Jesus.  Those Christmas mornings when you have to wake at dawn because the excitement cannot be contained. After all the chaos of gift opening is over, and beautiful Christmas outfits are donned, you take your place in a pew and kneel to remember that all the hub-bub is really about one beautiful child born in a manger centuries ago. I wish I had known then how short-lived that experience would be.

Fifteen Santa Clauses…

The day before Christmas this year, my ambivalence had settled in.  I was feeling harried, crabby, and a little off my game.  I met three friends for lunch at a lovely restaurant.  I’m not sure my heart was in it, but we ate and caught up and soon after the final morsel was eaten, I felt the tap on my shoulder to move along. I had things to do, they had things to do and I was of a mind to just get on with things and maybe, just maybe, December 26th would hasten forth and this mildly disappointing Christmas season could be tucked away.

We paid the bill, gathered our things and I looked out the window and, honest to God,  saw a stream of Santa Clauses entering the restaurant. One after the other, in various states of costume, they came.  I did a double take to be sure my imagination had not swept me away.

“You guys, check out the Santa’s!” I directed my friends’ attention to the window.

“Oh… let’s get our picture taken with them!”

With that, I made my way to the bar, where each Saint Nicholas was filling up. I found an especially friendly Santa face and said,

“Well Hello, all you Santa Clauses! Would you do me a huge favor and have your picture taken with my friends and me?”

Multiple affirmative nods of white-wigged heads followed and the shenanigans began. One Santa gave his vocal approval in an authentic British accent.  I turned to his darling face, smiled and said: “It’s A Dickensian Christmas right here in Newtown, Connecticut!”

My friends and I gathered outside and found ourselves quickly enveloped in a sea of red and white on a beautiful Friday afternoon.

And there it was, that spirit I had been missing, by way of a crowd of Santa’s who picked this time and this place to enter my space. As we extricated ourselves from the photo scene, a Santa named Bob asked me to share the pictures by text.  As he put his number in my phone he said,

“We are Sandy Hook parents, and we’ve been doing this thing for 3 years.  Several of the people here lost their children.”

His remarks were so unexpected that I was dumbfounded.  I put my hand on his shoulder and said the only thing I could think of, “I am so sorry.”

He looked me square in the eyes, “Live your life.  It can be changed in an instant.”

And that was that.

I was unexpectedly alone this Christmas Eve.  Plans were made and then foiled.  A year ago, that would have undone me.  Tonight, I sat on my deck and drank a beer with my loyal Labrador beside me, and toasted to those Santa’s.  It appears they came to me in the nick of time.

Fifteen perspective adjusting Santa Clauses feels a bit like the work of the Holy Spirit.

Merry Christmas!

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