Looking like Santa, not always easy
Published: Thursday, December 23rd, 2004
I love Christmas. When you look like I do, you have to. For those not familiar with this editor, let me draw a world picture of myself. I look like Santa Claus. I have white hair, a white beard, glasses, a round face and a belly that, well.... far too often shakes, “like a bowl full of jelly.” This similarity to the “right jolly old elf,” is a mixed blessing. Young children are usually quite well behaved around me, especially around Christmas time. I’m sure they would be anyway, but I often think parents push this recognition of me to dangerous extremes. Recently, while in the waiting room of the dentist’s office, I noticed a mother pointing to me and overheard her whispering to a small boy, “Now you better be good or he won’t ... you know.” Then I heard her say something about presents. I should mention just after this revelation to the child by his mother, I gave forth with a small “Ho, ho, ho.” It was a small one. After all, we were at the dentist, and you probably have no idea how hard it is to come out with jolly laughter while waiting to see about root canal work. I can just imagine what the child told his classmates when he returned to school the next day. “Santa goes to a cheap dentist in Clovis. Really! I saw him! And he wears really ugly ties, too.” My similarity to Saint Nick carries certain responsibilities, also. Of course, there is the mandatory “Ho, Ho, Ho!” and the hearty, “Merry Christmas!” which I am expected to start saying about Labor Day. Also, I have to be careful when I carry things outdoors. If I am seen with a full sack of anything slung over my shoulder, I know numerous pairs of young eyes watch me carefully and wonder where I am heading. My wife and I have, on occasion, even found our trash bags torn to shreds. She contends it is neighborhood dogs. But I am not so sure. And when I try to explain my worries, she says it is just my way of trying to escape taking out the trash, which is true, of course, but still.... I have been told that after I cover a story at the elementary school or the day-care center, children take an inordinately long time to settle down, thinking that the real reason I had been taking notes or pictures around them was to gather proof whether they were being naughty or nice. Just after Christmas is the worst time for me, though. The glares I receive from disappointed tots while I’m standing in line at the grocery store or post office are downright scary. Small children sidle by me mumbling things about clothes, and asking why I hate kids. Messages are left on my answering machine from very young voices saying things like, “Next year you’re getting spinach, not cookies.” Or, “We know where you live. We want our pony.” It is unnerving, but thinking about it, I suppose it could be worse. I could look like Saddam Hussein.
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