Thursday, December 15, 2011

a.k.a. Santa Claus

I haven't really been feeling in the festive mood recently. Or, to be exact, I have been feeling festive, just not as much as previous years. We went to see the Vancouver Christmas Parade, I've been to the wonderful German Christmas Market several times and the lights and seasonal music everywhere have been keeping me jolly and merry, humming tunes while reading in coffee shops.

But it's not the same as all those Christmas's back home. I don't have the same friends to share it all with. I'm not sitting in Gloria Jeans sipping coffee with Bob, dreading that the next song we hear might be "Fairytale of New York"[1], or walking through the brightly coloured evening streets with Jp, checking out those special offers in Game that crop up around this time of the year. I don't have the annual seasonal get-together with my friends from Early Childhood Studies that I never saw often enough while living in Cork, and certainly don't now. I can't make it to the Christmas party, with fine foods, rocking Rock Bands and awesome friends, or the New Years Eve house party, formal wear or otherwise.

It's not that I'm sitting at home feeling sorry for myself, I am having a good time and enjoying Christmas in Vancouver, it was just missing a little magic.

But today I got to be the magic. I got to be Santa Claus.

This morning I was working in a toddler room when the 3-5 supervisor arrived up. She spotted me and made a direct beeline across the room. She opened the conversation with "How would you like to make twenty-four children very happy" and I saw where this was going very quickly. I hesitantly accepted, hoping that she didn't notice that I was screaming and jumping with joy inside.

I had to wait the whole day, over seven hours between being asked and getting to try on the famous red suit. My heart was racing, and there were times I just had to stop doing whatever I was doing at the time and calm myself for a moment.

I put on the costume. It was really nice quality, even including a tummy padding, for us Santas a bit on the naturally slim side! Once everything else was in place, I put on my own leather gloves to almost finish it off, as the suit didn't include any. Then I carefully removed my glasses, putting them in a place even I, in my near blind state, could find them later, and put on the Santa glasses.

The transformation was complete, and I was ready for my grand entrance.

The children were amazed. As each one pressed forward to tell me about their day, or some other vitally important fact I should know according to their view on the current situation as it stands[2], all of them were stunned into silence when Santa addressed them by name! One little boy, the younger brother of a 3-5 made it to my seat and just starred up at me when I called him by name, as I exclaimed "Oh my! Is that really you? Look how tall you've gown. Last years you were this tall, now you're this tall! Goodness me."[3]

Everyone wanted a photo with me, and no matter how close they got, none of the 3-5 year olds seemed to have the slightest clue who was talking to them beneath the beard. Some of the older brothers that I know from the after-school program circled me like sharks for a few minutes, before sneaking up to my ear to whisper "I know you're not the real Santa. I know your name... Denis." When they did, I simply turned to them, smiled, winked and did the Kellogg's-Santa by-the-fire-who-has-been-spotted-by-the-little-girl-finger-to-lip-shhh, and they trotted off happy to have uncovered the truth.

Once I was done, and before I collapsed from heat-stroke (Santa's costume is designed for the North Pole, kiddies, not a crowded classroom), I headed back toward my secret lair (the office) to change back into Denis. On the way, I bumped into one of the toddlers that I had spent the whole day working with. I stopped to greet her by name and wish her a very merry Christmas and got a look of horror and loud screaming for my efforts[4]. In an attempt to make things right, and without any of the 3-5's around, I slipped off the beard and said "Look! It's me, Denis." The reaction was a moment of stunned silence punctured by a louder scream of "Noooooo!!", Darth Vader-style.

Back to normal, I stopped by the toddlers on my way home and found the friend I had upset still with a single tear on her cheek, but otherwise playing happily in the playroom. One of the staff told me they had comforted her by telling her that it was just Denis wearing dress-up clothes like the toddlers do in the home area, to which she had said "No Denis. Scary Santa." I asked her who she met downstairs to which she excitedly replied "Santa!" Then I asked her who was wearing the Santa dress-up clothes. She looked at me with the confused expression that means "Your question makes no sense" and returned to playing with friends. So long as she doesn't associate me with anything scary, I call that a win.

I stopped by a much emptier 3-5 room on my way out to thank the supervisor for allowing me to be a part for that magical moment for the children. I made sure to tell her that it was special for me too.

Today made my Christmas for 2011. I'll be sure to post again if something even more awesome happens, but to be honest, this has set the bar so ridiculously high, I just don't see that happening. It may not be the best Christmas I've ever had (1991, Lego Pirate ship), but it will forever be one that I will remember and cherish.

I can put up with never being wealthy or changing the whole world if I can make one child's world special now and then. Today, I did that twenty-four times over.

[1]- One of the greatest joys of my life here in Vancouver so far was discovering that no-one seems to recognise that song! It gets no playtime here. I may go the entire run up to Christmas without ever hearing it. If I make it, I'll try to remember to play it on the 25th to celebrate.
[2]- I was utterly amazed and impressed with how few of the children told me what they wanted, instead telling me about their day, their friends, or the songs they just sang. Material gifts were unimportant compared to the reason they were happy right this second. These kids are awesome!
[3]- I used that line on as many kids as I could get away with, and every one of them loved it, smiling in shocked silence at how Santa knew them by name and ever remembered them from last year!
[4]- To be fair, if a wild haired man with a crazy beard I've never seen before came up and talked to me using my name, I'd be pretty freaked out too. In hindsight, she was pretty justified in her reaction.


zinead said...


Hazel said...

In my school, the younger class I'm with on tuesdays made santa hats with cardboard and cotton wool and glitter. When one of the little ones was asked "are you going to put that on the fridge?" she answered "No! I have to put it on the christmas tree so when Santy comes down the chimney he'll see what I made in school and be proud!"
Times like that I just want to take them home in my pocket.