Sunday we hosted our second annual neighborhood Christmas party. Things were significantly more lively this year thanks to Uncle Carl who lead the group in rousing Christmas carols around the piano. Also popular this year was the original production of Alfie the Elf by Charlie, Elisabeth, and Miss P. But the real high point came at the very end of the party, when our doorbell was rung by none other than our neighbor Bill, in the most beautiful Santa suit I have ever seen, complete with tall shiny boots, jingle bells, and a beard down to his waist. This was very surprising, because Bill has never been a very friendly neighbor. He hurries in and out of his house, and only if you are really aggressive with your greeting might you get a gruff hello. I’ve never had a single conversation with Bill…and now I know why.
Neighbor Bill: University of Minnesota Public Health Professor by day. Santa Claus by night.
When you are hiding a secret that big you can’t let anyone get very close to you.
If Santa was expecting squeals of delight, he was disappointed. The children were immediately skeptical, asking: “Are you the real Santa?”
“Of course I am!” Santa Bill answered in a thick Scottish brogue (another reason he has never talked to us in the yard…he might not have been able to keep up his Minnesota accent).
Two of the three proceeded to sit on his lap and make their requests known. (The other one explained: ‘I only wuv to sit on Mama’s wap.’)
Charlie wants a board game the likes of which he has played at the Hoffner house. Elisabeth requested only flip flops.
Santa then joined them in their theatrical production of Alfie the legally blind toy-making Elf who receives glasses for Christmas and no longer hammers his thumb. As the applause died down Santa slipped away into night. Elisabeth lead the children to the window saying, “If we see his sleigh, then we will know it is the real Santa.”
Unfortunately, the snow storm obscured their view of Santa’s destination, and all they could see was a red figure disappear into the snow.
I admit that I don’t know how exactly I ended up on Santa’s side. I never believed in Santa myself, and always had an idea that doing so endangered a person’s faith in God. But I’ve never heard anybody say, “I used to believe in God until I found out Santa wasn’t real,” so I’m thinking it’s probably not a big deal either way. It’s a big deal to some people, though. I have one friend who overheard her kids going around asking people, “Do you believe in Santa or Jesus?” Another friend of mine emphasized the true story of St. Nicholas, until she heard them telling their friends, “Santa is real, but he’s dead.”
Now, I’m not going to lie to the kids. So, when they ask if Santa is real I try to create a diversion such as, “Hey look over there!” This has worked so far.
The day after the Christmas party we went downtown to Macy’s to walk through the 8th floor wonderland and see Santa (again). I gave him a heads up in the form of a note, and when we walked in and he said, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Charlie and Elisabeth, I saw you last night at the Christmas party. Charlie, you want a board game, and Elisabeth you want flip flops, right?” The children, once again, stared at him suspiciously.
Charlie immediately questioned: “Why do your glasses look different?”
Santa: “I have many pairs of glasses.”
Elisabeth: “Where was your sleigh last night?”
Me: “Did you park it in the woods?”
Santa: “Oh yes, I had to park it in the woods, because the reindeer get nervous around people. But I try to get around and check on all the Christmas parties this time of year. Now come on up here in my lap…”
Elisabeth was very happy to get a second hearing from Santa. She panicked after he left the Christmas party and said, “When I saw Santa all I could think of was a pair of flip flops, but now I thought of something else I want and it’s too late!”
That something else is a Barbie. Now I’ve got Barbie and Santa on my team…how did it come to this…it’s a slippery slope. (The next thing you know I’ll be telling you they watch Sesame Street… They watch Sesame Street. Slippery Slope.)
When we got home from seeing Santa, Elisabeth was wrought with angst. “I forgot to ask for a little dress for the Barbie!” So we wrote a letter and popped it in the mailbox. Thankfully, the mailman didn’t get it because the next morning she thought of one more thing, so we got the envelope out of the mailbox and added a little P.S. on the back:
“And a pair of those little Barbie shoes.”