Story 1: Santa Has Never Been a Cave Dweller

IMG_2152No matter how much you prepared to have your child’s picture taken with Santa, the picking out of outfits, the cleaning, polishing and extra napping you force on your kid, it seems something inevitably goes wrong.

My daughter, Lorrin, never liked sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall. From her position, the man was hiding from someone or something, evident from the fake beard he sported, therefore making him untrustworthy. The problem wasn’t that she didn’t believe in Santa Claus because she did. She just didn’t believe that the men in the red suits and fake beards at the mall had anything to do with the real guy. Still, I’d dress her up and drag her to the mall to get a picture with Santa every year, and she’d pose and smile like I wanted her to.

Once seated on Santa’s lap, Lorrin would refuse to tell him what she wanted for Christmas because why would she tell some stranger wearing a fake beard her deepest hopes and dreams? She wouldn’t. She didn’t, not even for the candy cane at the end.

One year, there was an unusual Mr. Claus at the mall. I should have known something was up when the line to this Santa was short, even though the mall was packed. I chalked it up to timing until I got a look at him.

He was rail-thin, had dark sunken eyes and ashen skin, but did have a real beard. This Santa didn’t smile brightly, more like a nervous, shy kind of smile that he wasn’t used to flashing at anyone. It seemed he’d rather be anywhere else in the world than where he was right at that moment. He’d put a child on his lap. He didn’t ask questions of any kind. He got his picture taken, thrust a candy cane at the child and moved on to the next kid.

It wasn’t hard to guess that this Santa wasn’t trying to be efficient, but that he couldn’t wait for the whole season to be over—though what he did on his off-season was anyone’s guess—I doubt he was spending any amount of time with the Little People of America or any such organization.

At first, Lorrin wanted no part of Santa’s workshop that year. He tried bouncing her on his boney lap. Nothing. He handed her a candy cane early. Still nothing. Finally, Santa gave her two candy canes and—surprise! Happiness!

I blame tradition for making my daughter sit on Santa’s lap and pose for a picture—I don’t want to blame myself.

Brian had this photograph of Lorrin and scary Santa on his desk for years. One Christmas season a coworker picked it up and examined it.

“Is this your daughter?” he asked.

“Yes,” Brian said.

“Huh, why is she sitting on Osama Bin Laden’s lap?”

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