See that old guy there? The one in the red suit, who saw me taking a picture and waved and smiled obligingly – even happily? Don’t be fooled. That sweet old man…is a liar and a cheat and a FRAUD.
Obviously there’s a story there, but first I should back up. Waaaaaay back. Like 13 years, back to Cameron’s first Christmas.
Cameron was born in early November 1997 so his first Christmas was probably a disaster waiting to happen since (1) I was a brand-new, first-time mom, (2) I was still a little out-of-whack from birthing him and his huge head, and (3) – probably most importantly – I was in the early stages of becoming a complete and total control freak where my kids are involved.
In preparation for his first trip to see Santa, I shopped for weeks (seriously, weeks) for the perfect outfit for him to wear. On the big day we took him to the mall nearest to our house and stood in line forever to see the big guy. When it was our turn I straightened his soft, sweet little outfit, kissed his rosy cheeks and handed him over to St. Nick as if I was presenting jewels to the queen of England. Surely Santa would be thunderstruck, laying eyes on the most gorgeous infant ever to join him for a picture.
Standing there with bated breath, I watched him receive my little bundle of joy, barely glance at his perfect little face, and with zero enthusiasm hold him up to the camera like he was advertising a large can of beans.
Wait, what? Whaaaat?
It goes without saying that I was not satisfied with Cameron’s first Santa experience. The man was NOT full of joy, he did NOT have a nose like a cherry and although he may have had a round little belly that shook when he laughed, I can’t say for sure because the old fart barely cracked a smile.
I vowed this would never happen again. So the next December, as soon as the Santa army descended on malls everywhere, I began my quest to find the PERFECT Santa for Cameron’s second Christmas. The pressure was especially great because we were already expecting Jerame by this point, and over my dead body would two of my kids have a crappy Santa experience.
I think we went to maybe ten malls that December. Joe was amazingly sweet about the whole thing – by this time understanding that it’s sometimes better to get out of my way and take cover somewhere safe than to argue. The man knows when to pick his battles.
And we found him. HIM. Santa. I’m pretty sure the real one. A Santa so sparkly and sweet and delightful that Joe and I became bumbling fools in his presence, losing our ability to speak. This Santa sat with Cameron for a few minutes before the picture was taken, cootchie-cooing him, tickling him under his chubby little chin and laughing. It was pure magic. This was what I had imagined in my delusional new-mommy dreams. Happy Santa, happy baby:
I know you’re probably expecting me to say that we found out Perfect Santa was an axe murderer, or that he was fired from the mall for groping his elves, or something equally sinister. But no, Perfect Santa really was perfect and the next year we took Cameron and new baby Jerame to see him:
And the year after that, and the year after that, and when Brandon joined the crew:
And many years after that, including last year, Evan's first:
Which brings us to now.
We hit the mall this year in great spirits, excited at the thought of seeing our old friend after 12 long months. When we got there Santa had left for dinner and we had to wait awhile, but before long someone said, “Hey, here comes Santa!” and we turned to greet him.
But it wasn’t him.
Not only was it not him, but there’s a very good chance this mall – miles and miles away from the mall that was the site of our first fateful Santa visit – may have somehow dug up Can of Beans Santa. Or possibly have scoured the streets of downtown Detroit for a random hobo to fill the job.
Okay, he wasn’t that bad. But he was NOT Perfect Santa. If Buddy the Elf was around, he would surely declare that this Santa sits on a throne of LIES.
I know Perfect Santa. Perfect Santa is a friend of mine. And YOU sir, are no Perfect Santa.
(Props to me, perhaps the only mommy blogger ever to loosely quote the late, great Lloyd Bentsen.)
I know this post is getting a little long, but the story gets soooo much better. Or worse, depending on your view.
When it was our turn to see Can of Beans (we decided to go ahead with the visit, since we had waited awhile at this point), I leaned over to his elf helper and quietly asked out of the side of my mouth, “Hey, where’s the real Santa?”
She looked at me blankly, then jerked her head in the direction of Can of Beans. “That’s Santa.”
I shook my head and smiled, letting her know I was wiser than the average parent. “No, the real Santa. The one you usually have.”
Again, the blank stare. “That’s him, same Santa every year.”
By this time I was thinking I was getting Punk’d. I looked around for Ashton, but there wasn’t a TV camera in sight. And I was starting to get a little pissed at this insolent elf. “That is not the Santa that is usually here,” I politely argued. “We come here every year and see the same Santa, and that’s not him.”
Bitchy Elf actually narrowed her eyes, and said, “Well, that’s Santa NOW.” Then she actually cocked her head and thrust out a hip, like “what are you going to do about it lady?”
For reals! Or, as my ever-quotable oldest brother would say, “I shit you negative!”
Just as I was fantasizing that evening’s news teaser (“Irate mother throttles lying elf, news at 11”), I heard an ear-piercing scream and realized why Joe wasn’t backing me up in my showdown with Santa’s helper. He was busy wrangling Evan, who was even less happy with Can of Beans than his mother. In addition to the hysterical shrieking, he was trying his best to crawl his way off of the old guy's lap, in desperate search of freedom. Over the ruckus, I said to the photographer, wearily – completely defeated – “Just take the picture.”
She did. And we ended up with one of my favorite shots ever:
So realistic. Soooo Evan. Sometimes the “disaster” Santa photos are the best ones. And it will definitely be a lasting reminder of our fateful 2010 trip to see
Can of Beans Santa. We all cracked up over that photo and left the mall restored to our happy, holiday-loving selves.
The boys were so distracted by the photo I don’t think they even missed me when I hunted down Bitchy Elf’s car in the parking lot and slit her tires.