Christmas. Santa. Little boys and girls excitedly leaving out cookies and milk, though I remember one Christmas our Dad talked us into leaving out a Pabst. What a wonderful time of year to be around children. Starting sometime after Thanksgiving our culture begins its collective effort in building excitement for children and the visit they will have from Santa Clause while they are sleeping on Christmas Eve.
Parents look forward to the first Christmas where their little one will know about Santa and the excitement in their home as December 25th nears. Of course, it helps if the excitement of the parents is shared by the child in an attitude of titillation, joy and happy excitement and not terror, fear and fright.
Christmas 2001 would be our first Christmas as parents with a child old enough to understand Santa Clause and his mission--bring presents to good boys and girls. Sure she had seen Santa the year before, but as a one year old her cognitive recognition and memory a year later was zip. Leslie and I were ready for this year, her first with Santa. One problem. Blaire was not.
We began our indoctrination Thanksgiving weekend. Blaire was showed pictures and little statues and dolls of Santa Clause and we explained who he was. "Santa Clause is a magical man who travels the world on Christmas Eve bringing toys and presents to little boys and girls." Simple enough. We believe in Peter Pan and Tinkerbelle, Cinderella, Snow White. Santa is right up there with them except he comes to you and brings presents. He is jolly, he is kind, he has a great laugh, and he knows everything.
That Thanksgiving weekend the local business association was closing down the main boulevard and trucking in a ton or two of "snow." Also making his debut appearance in Long Beach would be Santa Clause himself. The snow and Santa setting are a few blocks from the house and we bundled up Blaire and headed off. While we would mention seeing Santa, Blaire was singularly focused, "See snow Momma, see snow Dadda." Okay, we were seeing snow--but you know we were going to see Santa Clause too.
When we arrived at the snow scene it was uncontrolled chaos. There was a huge pile of "snow" with kids climbing up it and sliding down, there was a thick covering of "snow' all around the street and kids of all ages were scooping it, piling it and throwing it. Blaire went and stood on the slushy, cold, icy covering and grabbed some, "Ohhh! Cold!"
BAM! A ball of slushy, chunky, icy snow smashed Blaire in the side of the face. Naturally instant tears and a Dad looking to see who dared hit a defenseless two year old girl in the face with a snowball. A small boy, about seven, was coming towards us in tears with his mom. He was the offender and offered up an apology and a wail. Apology accepted, Dad appeased, daughter clinging tightly to his neck sobbing.
Okay, the snow didn't go as planned. But we still has Santa Clause.
At this point Blaire had really even said "Santa Clause." She could barely get out "Merry Chrisss-sssss-missss." And she had exhibited zero interest in our excitement and conversations regarding the jolly fellow.
We wander over to wear a chair and setting is ready for Santa Clause to arrive. and a crowd is forming on the sidewalk. After about fifteen minutes we hear a noise building and look down the street. There is Santa Clause! He is riding on the back of a big firetruck with lights blinking. A couple of police escorts on motorcycles are hitting the siren off and on, everyone is cheering, Santa is standing and waving and ho-ho-hoing.
"Look Blaire! There he is! There is Santa!" I move towards the curb with holding Blaire up to see, he beat red cheek glistening still.
"HI SANTA!" I yell and wave. He sees me and waves back! Instantly pain shoots through my body as ten little fingers seize my neck and skin and hold on for dear life. Head buried against my chest as I try to maneuver her to see Santa, Blaire is not interested in Mr. Clause.
Maybe if she sees him up close and watches the other kids she will feel more comfortable. I walk down the side of the line of kids waiting to sit on his lap, and as we get closer to where he is sitting her claw-like grip on me becomes even stronger. "Look there is one of your friends from gymnastics sitting on Santa's lap." "See that little boy laughing on Santa's lap?" Kid after kid crawls up on Santa's lap, spills his wants, gets a candy cane and slips off.
No effect, Blaire is not going to see Santa.
As the weeks pass towards Christmas we continue our kindness assault in defense of Santa. Leslie and Blaire attend a Tot-Lot a couple of times a week and Santa came to visit the kids. As re-told to me Blaire wanted nothing to do with Santa, screamed like crazy--not realizing mom's mission to get a picture of her child on Santa's lap. Got a book from him and fled. Later that evening when I got home and asked "Did you see Santa today?" I got a nod.
"Sanna Slauce give me book!"
Okay! She used his name, or her version of it, and got a present and seemed happy with the result of the interaction!
As Christmas came near we reiterated to her that Santa was coming and would be delivering presents in the house and putting gifts and candy in her stocking hanging over the fireplace. She was disinterested and wary of the prospect. At times we thought there was a thaw in the icy regard for Santa, but overall her attitude remained consistent.
Leslie's birthday is a few days before Christmas. This particular year I took the day off and we went to Disneyland. As part of Disney's Christmas theme they convert the Haunted House to "Nightmare Before Christmas" after the movie. With a decided lack of forethought and naivete we took Blaire into the house. With a skeleton posing as "Santy Claws" and other ghosts and ghouls. For our efforts for the next few days we were constantly reminded, "me ride scary house...saw ghost."
Which leads us to December 23rd. Two days before Christmas. The next evening we will travel to Leslie's mother's home for Christmas Eve dinner with her family. Then home, bed and dreams of sugar plums while Santa visits and drops some gifts on us.
Uh-un. Nope, not gonna happen in this house.
Sitting in our kitchen Blaire informs Leslie and I that "Me no want Sanna Slauce my howse."
"But honey, he has to come in the house so he can leave the presents."
"No, no, no Sanna Slauce my howse."
"He even leaves a bone for Cooper."
"No Sanna Slauce come my howse."
We were getting no where. She was adamant. Sanna Slauce would not be setting foot in her house. But what about presents? Nope. Candy? Nope. Presents for Mom and Dad? Nope.
I picked up the phone. "Blaire, I'm going to call Santa and see what we can work out. Okay?"
She looks at me with big eyes and slowly nods her head.
"Hello, this is Dennis Smith, father of Blaire Smith in Long Beach. Can I please speak with Santa?"
Cupping the phone, "They are getting him, he's a little busy."
"Hi! Santa! Hey I need a little help. Blaire is a little frightened of the idea of you coming into our house and dropping off presents."
I give a few hmms, uh-huhs, and nod my head, "Blaire, he says you won't even know he was here."
"No Sanna Slauce in my howse."
"Did you hear that Santa?" I listen to Santa and nod.
Blaire looks at me."How 'bout Sanna leave preznts on Doo-wah's bed?"
Now we are getting somewhere! Doo-wah is what Blaire called our dog Cooper. He had a bed outside.
"So you are okay with Santa coming and leaving his presents and stuff for us outside?"
"Yes, Sanna Slauce ow-side."
"And then Mommy and Daddy can bring them in?"
"Okay, Santa I think we have a solution. Instead of landing on the roof and coming down the chimney, would you mind leaving the presents outside for us?.....I know it is not normal but it would make Blaire happy. We have a covered patio in the back and the dog's bed....yes, Cooper's bed, is there and Blaire wants to know if you can leave her presents there......Yes, Leslie and I will bring them inside for you......Yes Santa we will leave a plate of cookies and a cup of milk out for you."
"Okay Blaire, Santa is okay with leaving your presents outside. He will leave them by the glass door on Cooper's bed and Mom and Dad will bring them inside when we wake up. Is that okay?"
"Thanks Santa, we appreciate it."
And with those negotiations completed Blaire was ready for her visit, sort of, from Sanna Slauce, who dutifully left our presents and gifts outside on the dog's bed for Leslie and I to bring inside Christmas morning while Blaire still slept.Since then she has come around and is a big fan of the Big Man. She and her sister had their annual visit to sit on his lap and let him know the presents they wanted and she gave her Mom a letter addressed to Santa Clause to drop off in the mailbox at Macy's.
We are ready and anxious for Santa's visit on Thursday night.
Merry Christmas to all!