There’s no time quite like the holidays to cause people to sit around reminiscing on Christmases, Hanukkahs and New Year’s Eves past. For some reason, each year we make it through the holidays marks another milestone and another “this time five years ago” moment to remember.
But I’m not going to sit around here telling you depressing stories about how old the holidays should make you feel or about all the things I didn’t do in the last year that I should have done. Instead, I’ve been thinking about kids and Santa and the hilarity that can ensue when the two meet.
Last week I was watching old episodes of the Graham Norton Show and he had a segment featuring awkward photos of kids with Santa. The annual trip to the mall or visit from Santa at school for some reason is a polarizing event. Kids are either pee-their-pants ecstatic or utterly terrified of jolly old St. Nick.
As it so happens, you can stick me in the “utterly terrified” category. Despite the fact that I, like any kid who believes in Santa, was beyond excited to let the guy break & enter and eat cookies in exchange for gifts, meeting him in person became quite the ordeal for three-year-old Kelly.
Although I appeared to be just a quiet, average kid (and clearly helpful and outdoorsy), my meeting with Santa in preschool revealed my utter awkwardness and possibly a slight dramatic streak at a very early age. Upon Santa’s arrival in our classroom, we were all excited, if a little bit nervous because we were all well aware of STRANGER DANGER (and he probably smelled of beef and cheese). However, after finding out that we would each sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what we wanted for Christmas, my anxiety grew.
As my turn to visit with Santa drew closer, I began to panic while my parents got the video camera ready. Finally, my turn was here and the panic and anxiety broke through my three-year-old cool, calm and collected exterior in the form of sheer terror and tears. Not just tears, but uncontrollable sobbing with plenty of snot and slurping. There may have also been screaming as my teachers and parents tried to coax me into being lifted onto this stranger’s lap to share my desire for a mouse stuffed animal that smelled like grape (completely serious, does anyone else remember these? mine smelled like dimetapp aka heaven).
With all the hysterics of my fit, the adults in the room quickly realized there was no way they were getting me to sit with the big guy alone. Thanks to some creative thinking and complete openness to humiliation, one of my teachers hatched a plan that would allow me to share my Christmas wish AND avoid getting to close to the scary man in the red suit. In a thankless act of complete dedication to children and the spirit of Christmas, my teacher plopped herself down on Santa’s lap before allowing me to be placed on her lap to ensure delivery of the Christmas gift without having any physical or eye contact with the scary stranger.
Eventually, I got over my fear of old men in red suits, probably just in time to realize his hand writing looked A LOT like my parents’ and grandparents’. Regardless, this Christmas instead of worrying about how many Christmases have passed, how many presents I’ve given or whether things will be different next year at this time, I’m going to think about my preschool teacher (who even allowed herself to be filmed during the ordeal) and that three-year-old version of me giving everyone a preschool holiday party to remember. I am her and she is me. We share the same mind – inquiring and skeptical, yet full of joy – and the same ability to bring a little laughter to everyone’s day, even if it’s unintentional.
So, if anyone needs me this Christmas, I’ll be re-channeling that three-year-old (minus the hysterics). And snuggling with a stuffed animal that smells like artificial grape, of course.
Happy Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa!