A Santa Claus for the Ages

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The first time I donned a Santa suit, it turned into a disaster. My 8-year-old niece looked at me with suspicion, pulled down my beard, and shouted aloud: “Uncle Tom. You’re not Santa Claus. You’re a fake.”

I tried explaining to the child that I was Santa’s helper for the evening and was bringing cheer to all the good boys and girls.

“And since you pulled Santa’s beard, you’re on his naughty list.”

Next thing I know, the child burst into tears. But she never stopped believing until years later. Or at least she did a good job pretending for the sake of a younger brother.

You might say the Santa role laid a foundation that covered more than four decades.

At my church, the older kids know the secret. They call me Santa Tom when it comes time to celebrate with our pageant and party. I prance through the outside door with a hearty “Ho! Ho!” and take my place in the big chair by the tree.

I’ve occupied that hot seat since 1970 and look the part. One by one, the children take a knee and get their gift, but only after a wise word or two.

“Be good to others and learn to appreciate God and your Armenian heritage,” I tell them. “It’s not always the gift that counts but the giving of ourselves. Do a good deed daily. Help someone you don’t know and always be kind to others.”

The older ones may get it. The younger ones take the gift and run.

By the end of this sitting, my senses are swirling and my joints are aching. My vision has been blurred by a constant dribble of sweat that flows from my brow. My knees appear like they’re ready to come detached from a fragile torso.

Nobody ever told me this was such a difficult job. I found out for myself, especially after reaching my mid-70s. There used to be a time when I could hoist a youngster on each lap, absorbing a swift kick in the shins while listening to some 50 requests.

When you teach a bunch of students in Sunday School, you can appear before them in an iron mask and they’ll know who you are. Much as I’ve tried to disguise myself and shield my voice, it’s never worked.

What does it take to impersonate a Santa? Intestinal fortitude for one thing and a gift of gab. Don’t ever promise something you can’t deliver. A rundown of each child is not required, but helpful. The meek need not apply.

For instance:

“Merry Christmas, Noah. How’s the ark these days and the animals that came aboard in twos? You know, of course, it landed on Mount Ararat following a flood. It’s all there in the Book of Genesis. Congratulations on making the honor roll in school and scoring a touchdown.”

“How did you know all that?”

“Because I’m Santa. Ho! Ho! Ha!”

“Hey, I know who you are…”


Ever since I was old enough to believe in miracles, Santa was my hero. He could make dreams come true. Any guy that could fly through the air on a sleigh pulled by reindeer was not your ordinary folk hero, especially one who started out old and incredibly stayed the same.

That’s because he had guys like me helping him out and doing all the side work. But, knock on wood, it’s kept me fit and frivolous, even when the more incredulous kids challenge your wits.

The after-effects of just an hour marooned on a throne bearing the brunt of errant little feet can be detrimental to your health. Thank goodness for that pillow over my stomach. It provides protection from frontal assaults.

Unless the Santa suit is a perfect fit—and it never is—much of the beard flows into my mouth. The wig shields my eyes and the red stocking cap that holds the wig in place fails miserably on occasion.

Initially, the idea of playing Santa and having the opportunity to entertain children was a stimulating one. Kids are a wonderful audience, naturally responsive and eager.

I recall the visit Santa paid me many years ago with my first bicycle. I couldn’t wait to try it out and wound up crashing it into a telephone pole Christmas morning.

I remember the first radio I received which was a much bigger thrill than the first TV that was moved into our home.

I recall, too, how Santa brought that puppy I requested and he knocked over the tree in its haste to get a bulb. I named him “Crash.”

And I remember playing Santa at my son’s kindergarten class and how he kept the secret from others, knowing his dad couldn’t fool him. I may have traumatized my own kids with the get-up.

But the real gift, I suppose, is the gift of love and the comfort of family and friendship. For that, Santa needs loads of help on this Christmas Day. Won’t you join me?

Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: A Santa Claus for the Ages