Monday, December 05, 2005

December 1987: A First Visit With Santa

Nyssa and Santa, December 1987. (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy." ~ Francis P. Church, The New York Sun, 1897
He usually arrives at the mall the day after Thanksgiving but his castle, candyland, north pole or, in this case, Snoopy doghouse with throne is ready even earlier. It is a magical place filled with giant candy canes and gum drops, sparkling snowflakes, Christmas trees decorated with twinkling lights and glass balls of all colors. Red and white poinsettia surround the large throne-like chair cushioned with dark red velvet covered padding and pillows with golden tassels. This is Santa's land, a place of wonder for children where they may whisper to Santa their Christmas wish and pass on a self-evaluation of their behavior for the year. "Have you been a good little girl this year?" "Oh! Yes, Santa, I've been very good!"

There are always those little ones who have seen Santa pictures in a book, who smile in awe and wonder at the Santa in the mall and yes, even beg to go "talk to Santa"; but when faced with the actual prospect of this bushy, bearded man in the red suit "up close and personal", they panic, balk, cry and turn away. This is disconcerting for parent, child and Santa. No picture for mom, no list delivered for the child and emotional trauma for dear old Santa. Who wouldn't be traumatized by a screaming child on your lap, distraught parents and a hundred onlookers?

This was Nyssa's first visit to Santa. (Click read more) She was 1 1/2 and already very self-confident. Tuesday afternoon was my "afternoon off" from work, so we tried to do fun activities; visits to the library or the park and on this afternoon, a visit to Santa. I'd seen those screaming kids on Santa's lap before and generally avoided "Santa's Wonderland" so there was no way to know for sure how she would react. We were shopping, he wasn't too busy and Nyssa kept pointing excitedly in his direction so we stopped.

To my amazement, she hopped out of the stroller, walked up the candy cane lined walkway and let the elf helper put her on his lap. She posed for two pictures, this one belongs to grandma; and though she didn't talk much yet, she smiled at Santa and gave him a big hug. Then it was time to get down and stand with me while I paid the for the pictures.

At this point the trouble started. She didn't want to get off Santa's lap. I had to go and physically pick her up myself. She immediately started crying and pointing at him. When I set her down to write the elf a check, the crying turned into a wail. Santa had no other customers at that time, so he came over to see her. Nyssa reached for him, he picked her up and...... she quit crying, instantly! I think he must have been shocked! So, while I paid and waited for the pictures, Santa and Nyssa walked around wonderland talking; or rather he talked, she listened and grinned.

The transaction finished, I collected my things and her stroller and held out my arms to take Nyssa from her Santa. She turned away and clung to him. Bless his heart and his gorgeous big blue eyes, he was definitely in shock now! "This has never happened to me before! They usually start crying when Mom sets them on my lap, not when she takes them off!" I thanked him for his help as I pried my now crying daughter off his neck and put her in the stroller. We walked away with Nyssa turned towards Santa, her arms out wide and her wails echoing through the mall. Santa just stood there waving to her, completely amazed and baffled.

She finally calmed down a bit and I thought we could continue shopping; but, everytime we came within eye contact of Santa's Wonderland, Nyssa would start pointing and the tears would flow. I finally gave it up and took her home. I'm sure Nyssa "made" this Santa's day, perhaps his whole season!

And I learned a lesson as well; to avoid the Santa section of the mall at all costs for the rest of that Christmas season.

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