20 December 2011

Santa Claus is coming to town

My photo albums (non-existent, except on my computer) are surprisingly devoid of photos of the kids with Santa. The reason is simple. I did it once. The son screamed bloody hell after a few moments of looking utterly terrified.

I never really tried it again.

Red suit, big beard, or horrifying halitosis, for some reason, the son took umbrage to Santa that year. He was nearly two and two is a fairly impressionable age. And the dude, though pleasant, had the worst case of bad breath I've ever encountered, and I wasn't even that close to him. It was enough to scare me.

Naturally, the whole thing was my mother-in-law's idea, but I agreed with no hesitation. The Santa visit was one of the staples of my childhood, though without all of today's photo packages. There were no photos, in fact, unless one's parent took one, and when we went to see Santa down at local mall, the real prize was receiving a candy cane. It was just a fun and silly event, an excuse to get out of the house, and an opportunity to enjoy the decorations in the department stores.

Shortly after the son was born, my MIL instituted Wednesday lunch. She often met up with some of her friends for lunch at the Bullocks' tea room, and she wanted to show off her latest grandchild, so the son and I were invited along one afternoon.

(Okay, I'm back. I got distracted reading about department store history in Southern California. There is a building near the daughter's school that I recently realized used to be a department store; I was wandering around and I was actually looking at the buildings, and of course, the old display windows were still evident in what now houses social services offices. I've just discovered it was a Buffums, an old high-end, family-owned department store chain that I believe is now defunct. Not that this has anything to do with the post I'm writing.)

Evidently, she enjoyed the lunch--I am well-mannered and the son is entertaining--and invited us again. It became an outing that she and I would embark upon every couple of weeks. Lunch evolved into lunch and a little shopping, and naturally, when the holidays rolled around, Santa figured in.

The photo shows the son straining away from Santa. It was before he began bellowing.

"That man smells so bad!" my MIL murmured to me after I retrieved my red-faced and tucked him back into his stroller. "No wonder the boy didn't want to sit on his lap."

By the following year, I was expecting the daughter and because of complications, I was supposed to rest, so there were few lunches and no trip to see Santa. In later years around the holidays, I'd suggest that we might go and have a chat with the Man in Red, but the kids would look at me and shake their heads violently in the negative. Receiving a candy cane at brunch at the Athenaeum from Santa was about their speed--he traversed the dining rooms with a basket of candy and offered greetings to everyone--but they would decline to have a photo taken with him when he was holding court in front of the Ath's tree.

Thus, my photo albums are devoid of photos of the kids with Santa.

And through the years, when they watch A Christmas Story, and Santa pushes Ralphie down the slide with his foot yelling "HO HO HO!" the kids point to screen and say, "See, Mom? See?" as if the proof for their years of refusal is right there.

Go listen to some music: "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" was written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie and is sung by everyone.

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