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Face Time With the Fat Man

Photo Courtesy of Clint Young

My dad works for Santa. He’s a helper at a mall in California and with this job come a whole lot of great stories and connections to other Santa-ish people across the United States. Because of these connections, last week I found myself driving several towns over to go to a mall an hour from my house in order to see a specific Santa who’s part of my dad’s posse. We no longer visit random Santas. We know them by their first names. We follow their chatter on Facebook.

So, on Friday I loaded the kids up after school and we all drove to pick up Dan from work. For our pre-Santa feast, we dined at an Internationally Renowned Home of Pancakes and Breakfast Meats (abbreviation IRHOPABM or IHOP). The kids ordered large puddles of sugary liquid with pancakes on the side for dipping.

They wrote letters to Santa while they waited, letters with the parentally-enforced thanks for last year’s presents, followed by a brief heartfelt request for the objects of their current desire. Magoo wants a remote control car. Laylee would like a pencil. Because she is apparently completely deprived. I also had them each write at least one conversational sentence to Santa, like, “What’s up with reindeer?” or “How is Mrs. Claus’s cholesterol this year?”

Halfway through dinner, I realized that there was a possibility Santa wouldn’t remain at his post all night long. Perhaps he needed to go home and eat cookies or apply rouge to his blushy cheeks. I checked the mall website. Yep. We would be cutting it really close to get there before Santa gave us the slip.

“Eat quickly,” I said, “Or we’ll miss Santa.” The kids began shoving the food in their mouths at an amazing rate of speed.

“Santa!” Wanda cried. “Santa giving Wanda CANDY CONE!”

She loves her some candy cones this time of year, all that minty goodness. We battled horrible Seattle traffic, rushing as fast as we could for our date with destiny, only to arrive at the mall twenty minutes before Santa’s scheduled departure, just three families back from the person who’d been marked by the bored, unshaven elf as the last guaranteed Santa visit of the night.

But he had to see us. Did he know who I was? Did he know who my father was? Part of me wanted to slip him a note that said, “Santa Clint’s grandkids are in line. You have to see them.” The other part of me looked at this exhausted man who’d been offering his knee and his attention in a grueling holiday portrait assembly line for the past 10 hours and thought of my own dad. That part wanted to give the guy a break and head home pictureless.

But the part of me with three expectant kids all hopped up on sugar syrup, who’d cleaned the house from top to bottom that afternoon with the bribe that we could go see Santa when they were done hanging over their heads, won out. I told the man-elf that we’d wait and take our chances.

The line on the red carpet inched along, parents fluffing their kids hair and straightening their taffeta dresses. I brushed a wrinkle from Wanda’s Spiderman hoodie and waited, while every two minutes the man-elf reminded me that we would probably not get to see Santa, that everyone in front of us was going very slowly, and that we had been warned.  But at about two minutes to eight we got our turn with the big man.

I told him who we were and we talked Santa helper shop. The kids read him their letters and afterwards Magoo conceded that it was possible he was the real guy, although he hopes that if the real Santa dies, Papa will inherit the throne.

Then we spent a good hour in the children’s play area burning off energy with the kids calling out every couple of seconds for me to “WATCH ME MOM!” which of course means, watch me with a creepy level of eye contact. Glue your eyeballs to my amazing trick-preforming personage while I watch you watching me to make sure you are watching me and nothing but me as I do something that will both amaze and astound you.

So I watched, intensely, like an intensely creepy stalker and everyone was pleased with the way things turned out. Merry Christmas, everyone! May you get every single pencil on your wish list!

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