THE CHRISTMAS PARTY
What is Christmas without a photo with Santa? Our church is going to have a Christmas party and of course Santa is going to be the guest of honor. We are getting ready. The big question is what to wear. No, not for me but for Marc. Lately, I don’t have time to think about trivial things like clothes for me. As long as they are comfortable, they will do. On the other hand, what Marc is wearing is of the outmost importance. Hmm. Should it be the pants set or the red Santa overalls? I think the pants set; one Santa in the room is more than enough. We are ready, but first we have to take some pictures by the Christmas tree. The tree is once again beautifully decorated, its base covered with numerous brightly wrapped gifts. Sam eyes the gifts critically, looks at me and raises one eyebrow. I avoid direct eye contact. I know what that look means: too many gifts. I place Marc by the tree, watchful that he doesn’t touch the branches again. I keep a hand on his back at all times and hurry Sam through. The party is held in the spacious church hall. The mood is festive. Little boys and girls beautifully dressed wait for Santa’s arrival. The families are gathered around the buffet table. Grandparents, uncles and aunts have joined are also present to celebrate the joyous event. We mingle with the crowd. Marc is fascinated by the noise, the colors and the bustle. He is quite at ease in the crowded room and entertained by the movement of people going in and out of the large hall.
Suddenly, a wave of excitement runs through the crowd. Santa is coming! He enters the room with numerous Ho-ho-ho’s and Merry Christmases and sits in the chair prepared for him. The queue is already forming. Every little boy and girl wants to sit on Santa’s lap. I wait for our turn, wondering who is in Santa’s suit. Marc is squirming in my arms, turning right and left, pushing against my shoulder. I hold hi tight. It is finally our turn. Sam is standing on the side, ready with the camera. I place Marc on Santa’s lap and take a step back.
“Sam! Take a picture,” I tell him urgently. “Come on, hurry! They look so cute together.” Then turning toward Marc, I urge, “Marc, smile!”
Marc is sitting on Santa’s lap motionless and with a surprised expression on his face. The look he gives me seems to say, “Why are you over there? You should be holding me.” Then, realizing that someone is talking to him, he turns around and stares at Santa with amazement. He turns back, looks at me with a look of utter betrayal and starts to cry with heart-wrenching sobs. For a few seconds I stand there paralyzed. This was not the reaction I was expecting. It never occurred to me that Marc would be scared of Santa. I rush forward, pick him up and try to soothe him. But Marc is angry with me. He pushes me away and reaches for Sam. Ha wants his father and not me! My feeling of hurt is as acute as it is surprising. I am angry with Santa. Why did I ever think of him as a jolly father figure, a giant squishy teddy bear? I look at him with the perspective of a baby who sees him for the first time. He is big. He is loud. He has long white hair and a beard that covers most of his face. He is wearing a bright red suit and a matching hat. He doesn’t look like anybody in Marc’s life. I am now angry with myself for not thinking about this eventuality. Marc has stopped crying and has buried his head in Sam’s shoulder. My only concern now is to get him home. We bid everyone a hasty goodbye and return home.
That was the first and last picture with Santa! Needless to say, I never repeated the experience, even when he was older and more familiar with Santa’s look and dress. I kept Santa where he is supposed to be, an imaginary figure who on Christmas Eve magically rewards every child with a gift left under the Christmas tree.