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Official Article

The Santa Diaries

For a lot of us there is one person besides our immediate family that has been in our lives from the very beginning. He’s round, bearded and shows up at your house once a year covered in ash…no, not chain-smoking Uncle Frank, it’s Santa Claus! He’s a generous Grandpa to the world who delivers toys and goodwill one night of the year, but hangs around most of December so you’re not totally weirded out by the fact that he’s going to be dropping down your chimney in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve had quite an array of experiences with Santa over the years that I’m excited to share with you.

Mr. Claus is a busy guy on Christmas Eve, so I guess we should count ourselves lucky that he stations himself at our local mall in the weeks leading up that magical night. Think about it, where was your first experience meeting Santa face to face? Probably not at the Old Country Buffet, but in a mock-up of his North Pole Workshop placed next to Sears. Armed with a head full of present requests while clutching a candy cane handed out by a college student in curly-toed shoes, waiting in line to see that “jolly old elf” was quite the experience.

Amidst the echoing Christmas music and excited chatter, the sounds of children crying and shouting for “Mommy!” would often cut through the festive atmosphere. The way most lines were set-up you couldn’t actually catch a glimpse of Kris Kringle until you were actually climbing on his lap, so these screams always seemed extra ominous. But I was never one of those kids, I loved the fantasy of the whole experience, especially with the set-up at the hoity-toity mall called South Coast Plaza where I went to get a picture the world famous celebrity every year. Santa’s Village was always stationed near the carousel, which provided a great distraction from the endless waiting to answer the ever important question, “What do you want for Christmas?”

One year my answer popped out almost immediately, “I want a Scooby-Doo board game”. It makes sense, I had just mastered Candyland, so why not move on to more fun with my favorite canine detective. Santa assured me he would do his best and off I went to count down the days to December 25th. But after a day or so, I realized that I had never actually seen evidence that a Scooby-Doo game even existed. Panic started to set-in as I realized that I might have blown my one big present. Every child gets that one opportunity every year to ask Santa for the thing they want most and now, I was sure I had wasted my breath.

Christmas morning finally came, but my hopes were low for this holiday season as even my scouring of the Sears catalog hadn’t turned up any evidence that my prized present existed. I less than enthusiastically grabbed the closest box and started to open it. Just as I tore the wrapping paper I saw it, the Milton Bradley logo! I furiously ripped through the rest of the covering and there smiling at me as if to say, “Rere ras rothing to rorry arout” (translation: “There was nothing to worry about”) was Scooby-Doo! I was a little confused why he was wearing a crown in a chamber of jewels, but it didn’t matter, Santa had come through! My faith in Christmas was restored, which is a good thing since 2 years later Santa dropped the ball.

Maybe I was tired of making the trip to the local frozen yogurt shop or the homemade popsicles simply weren’t cutting it anymore, but for Christmas of 1992 all I wanted was a Tyco 3-Minute Ice Cream Maker. The commercials had been playing in between episodes of Eek! The Cat and I was convinced that owning this device would make my life complete. I had tried to make the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine work for years with little success, the 3 Minute Ice Cream Maker looked much more reliable. I could only imagine the frozen delights I would mix up in my very home in 1993.

So I made the annual trek to sit on Santa’s lap, quickly delivered my preference to the big man and confidently waited for that box to appear under the tree. Just one problem, Santa didn’t deliver. Instead I got 2 packets of the 3 Minute Ice Cream Maker mix and a letter from Ol’ St. Nick stating that the Elves didn’t make enough of the machines and that he would try to get out a late delivery by my birthday.  I couldn’t believe it, this guy had created a toy out of thin air for me 4 years earlier with the Scooby-Doo game, now this mass marketed plaything was out of his reach? Poppycock! Disappointed, I put the mix packets in the cupboard and waited for an ice cream maker that never came.

Then one summer day, having forgotten all about this disappointment I came upon the unused chocolate ice cream mix. Deciding that I didn’t need a plastic churning device to enjoy a frosty treat, I poured the powdery stuff in a pitcher with some milk and started mixing. After leaving the pitcher in the freezer for an hour I poured the slightly crystalized liquid into a glass and took a sip. BLEGH! It was the same flavor as that bitter baker’s chocolate we kids sometimes encountered when trying to sneak an unauthorized treat. I can only assume that the instructions inside the 3 Minute Ice Cream Maker box specified the correct amount of sugar to add, but I wasn’t going to take the blame for this! It was Santa’s fault. He ripped me off and now all I had was a nasty milkshake to show for it. It’s hard to be let down by a guy you know has magic at his disposal.

By this point the Santa Claus legend was beginning to fade for me. It wasn’t just out of bitterness, but a kid hears things on the playground and suddenly magic isn’t a plausible answer for defying the laws of physics. But I decided to give Santa one last shot at being a part of my Christmas memories. I had always wanted to try the leave a plate of cookies out for Santa experiment. So Christmas Eve night I worked with my Mom to bake up some sugar cookies and decorated them with festive sprinkles. It was suggested that I throw the Reindeer a bone and drop some carrots on the plate as well. We set them out on the piano bench next to the tree and I went to bed.

As I staggered out to the living room on Christmas morning, there was the empty plate of cookies with just a few crumbs left behind. Draped across it was a note from Santa thanking me for the treat and letting me know that Rudolph appreciated the snack. The best part was that the handwriting was the same as in the apology letter the year before, a case could be made that Santa was real after all. Even if there were lingering doubts in my mind, I loved living in the fantasy of it all one last time. As small as it was, I had interacted with Santa on a very personal level and had a sweet memory to take with me into my teenage years that would arrive soon enough.

Yep, life with Santa was a roller coaster ride, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ll always be grateful for that last magical moment with the mythical master of merriment and look forward to creating those special moments for my kids. Santa’s gift to me now as a parent is being a fall guy for messing up a present purchase. Heaven forbid I buy the wrong Skylander toy or something, “Sorry Son, Santa’s getting old you know. It’s hard to keep up with all the latest trends. But your old pal Dad will make it right.” Yeah, Santa just keeps on giving.

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pikachulover Posted on Dec 25, 2014 at 02:30 AM

@Hoju I thought that was all her mom had. I looked at the potato as a form of proof that Santa was there like the eaten cookies. I've heard of the pickle, but my family never did that. I think I saw a pickle ornament in a catalog.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 23, 2014 at 02:28 PM

Yeah they did get to tell Santa their wants. Funny thing too, as my oldest boy is very concerned that he may have told Santa something incorrect. I assured him that Santa is pretty smart, and I'm sure he'll know what he meant. LOL

Hoju Koolander Posted on Dec 23, 2014 at 01:16 PM

@Vaporman87 Aww, great to see the kids sharing a moment with Santa together. Did they take turns telling him why they wanted or was it just a photo op? Yeah, I was pretty sure the bakers chocolate switcheroo has has caught most of us off guard during childhood.

@NLogan I'm pretty sure Rudolph hogged ALL the carrots for himself anyway, only sharing with the Reindeers that didn't shun him during his years as a pariah.

@pikachulover I never had heard this Christmas potato idea. I think it could go right up there with the families that hide the Christmas pickle ornament. Have you heard about that weird-o tradition?

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 22, 2014 at 04:22 PM

Yeah. This year was a rare year of all the kids loving to visit Santa...

pikachulover Posted on Dec 20, 2014 at 09:48 PM

I remember on year my neighbor who was 2 years older than me was showing off a reindeer eaten potato in she found in the yard. I told my parents I wanted a potato too next year. A few years later when my family moved to a house with a chimney. The first Christmas there I found a reindeer eaten carrot in the fireplace. We never used the fireplace anyway there weren't any logs or anything. The strange thing was I don't remember leaving any carrots for the reindeer. I always left cookies for Santa. In her younger days my mom would bake up a storm of scratch cookies. There were always some of her cookies laying around the house anyway.

NLogan Posted on Dec 20, 2014 at 05:58 PM

You only left out 6 carrots for 8 reindeer, 9 if you include Rudolph. That would have been a bloodbath. That is a pretty cool looking Scooby Doo game that I had no idea even existed. Sometimes we must learn the hard way I got a chuckle out of both of you imagining your faces after tasting the bitter chocolate.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 20, 2014 at 05:35 PM

Oh yeah, I forgot to make a comment on that baker's chocolate reference! I thought I was the only one who made that mistake!!! Ha! For months I avoided touching the stuff at the warning of my mom. But finally, one day, temptation got the best of me. Never again. My thoughts at the time were, "How can something so nasty legally be labeled as chocolate?" It seemed like the crime of the century to me.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 20, 2014 at 05:33 PM

I was never one of those kids that were frightened of Santa... or the Easter Bunny, or any other Holiday legend for that matter. Well, excepting any Halloween related legends that is.

The nice thing this year about visiting Santa, was that all three of my kids were happy to do so. That is a first. Usually, at least one of them was either not excited to, or just plain frightened to sit on his lap for pictures. My oldest son actually had difficulty holding back a big smile his year. That was awesome to witness.

I love the stories and pictures you have added in this. Hilarious!

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