My daughter sat awkwardly on Santa’s lap just long enough for me to take a photo. She did not smile for the camera.
My son never left my side.
And that was it for us. I never again took my children on an outing to sit in the lap of a big, hairy stranger.
My mother apparently felt the same way. There are only a couple of photos of me sitting in Santa’s lap.
If there are photos of my husband sitting in Santa’s lap, I’ve never seen them.
Recently, I spent a couple of Saturday nights volunteering at the “Christmas in the Gardens” festival in the Anniston museum district. My job was to stand near Santa at the Berman Museum of World History and direct traffic. And no, I was not required to dress like an elf, thank you.
But I did get to spend several hours observing Santa in his natural habitat, from only a few feet away. Santa wore a Victorian suit, with bells on his cuffs and bells on his belt.
In this busiest of seasons, Santa’s dinner one Saturday evening was Ramen noodles. Santa drank Diet Coke. In the quiet times between visits with children, Santa liked to slip into the library and come out with a history book, then sit in his big leather chair and read, as still as a statue.
Some of the smallest children refused to go near Santa. Some of the teenage girls briefly turned back into little girls, and sat on Santa’s knee with a giggle. Some of the teenage boys sat on Santa’s knee, too, but only after their mothers forced them to. Santa gave them the option of just standing next to him for the picture.
During a lull, I even went up and had my photo made with the big man. It was harder to balance on Santa’s knee than I remember it being.
When Santa asked each of his visitors what they wanted for Christmas, I could overhear the answers: “Barbies.” “Toys!” “A kitten.”
There were little girls in sparkly shoes, sisters in matching outfits, boys in camo jackets.
When the children were finished with their requests and Santa had handed each of them two candy canes (one for now, one for later), he would direct them to the back lawn of the museum, where a portable BB gun range had been set up. Not once did I hear him suggest that anybody would shoot their eye out.
At the end of one night, one little boy came back to see Santa a second time.
“Did you forget to ask for something?” Santa asked. No. The boy had been to a craft area to make jingle-bell necklaces. He had made an extra one. He wanted to bring a gift to Santa.
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