VIII. Wishing Well
We evacuated Las Vegas in the summer of 2009 and headed to the borderland area of Mexico, New Mexico and Texas and first stable economy. We were barely settled in to our new apartment when the fall arrived and then the chill of winter and a request from our neighbor to play Santa for the kids at her son’s elementary school. Her live in boyfriend had refused and I was her last hope. So after all of these years of not wearing my own suit I was handed a large plastic bag containing a combination and patchwork of two different suits that had seen better days.
I tried it on the night before and with Tammy’s help we made the necessary adjustments including draping a large red scarf around my neck to rest over my chest. We also had to adjust the belt and the beard needed lots of work. I chose to wear red framed sun glasses to detract attention away from the deficiencies in my look.
The morning of the event I was super nervous and we arrived on schedule but our escort Elsa was nowhere to be found. We lingered around the front office and finally Elsa appeared with some treats for the class. We proceeded to the room and I sat down and each child posed with me for a photograph and then I gave them a piece of candy.
The spirit of Santa gradually engulfed me and I invited the teachers and staff to come and sit on Santa’s lap. Most of them obliged and then we offered for the attending Mothers to have a photo with Santa and them with their child. Word quickly spread down the hallway and even to the prefabs located in the rear of the school.
Santa made many unscheduled stops that day. Children would stop in the hallway and just stare at Santa and when Santa entered a second grade class before his minders, the students who were seated and watching a magician perform tricks bum rushed Santa and almost knocked him flat on his rear end. Only an immediate intervention by multiple faculty members and the rear guard saved Santa that day. God forbid his costume gave out too!
With his obligation met Santa retired for the day but it wasn’t long before he robed again at a community sponsored event in the clubhouse. Santa posed with his new friend and retired DEA agent who was seeking miracle cures from the VA that weren’t going to happen. Later after Christmas of 2009 I accompanied John to the local Veteran’s Administration Hospital overlooking the vast army base at Fort Bliss where many soldiers returning from both Iraq and Afghanistan were assigned prior to receiving their discharge from the Army.
We arrived at the Hospital and as we approached the conference room to meet the Chief of Staff we were followed by a large security detail. Apparently John had on numerous occasions raised hell within the corridors and now attracted the complete undivided attention of the powers that be. Once inside with his case worker the Chief of Staff and me, John pleaded his case and concluded his presentation with the words. “I don’t want to die.”
John spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas Day with us that year and a few months later the medical examiner was summoned to his apartment where they found him deceased in bed laying on top of his cell phone. He was buried with honors at the local Veteran’s cemetery and Santa treasures the photo he and John shared for that one moment of happiness.
IX. Santa Sees the Child In Each Of Us!
The following year 2010, the request from Elsa was made once more and Santa appeared at the same elementary school with even more requests for last minute classroom entrances and photo ops. This year though Santa dressed for success and waddled outside to drive to the local Blood Bank to make a donation. One of the landscapers started laughing as Santa walked by and Santa realized that his belt had fallen down to his ankles as had his red wafer thin red pantalones. Santa bent over and gathered himself up and sped off to his appointment.
Upon arriving at United Blood Services Santa was asked to pose in front of their Christmas tree. The double doors opened and a flood of employees arrived to have their photo taken with Santa. After the photo op and work up Santa donated platelets in full suit fawning to promote the caption: “During this busy Christmas season if Santa has time to donate; do you?”
Everywhere Santa drove that day people honked and waved. Santa even made a bank deposit waiting in line for what seemed like forever with forty other people. Upon completing his transaction and while exiting the bank Santa turned to the others queued and waiting for a teller and bellowed: “Don’t worry everyone Ben Bernake is going to receive coal in his stocking until interest rates start to rise.” The laughter was audible and shared by the bank manager.
Later that day I returned to the bank to make another deposit. This time I was in sporting my normal disheveled laid back blue jeans and flip flops accenting my clean homeless look when one of the bank executives came over and said: “Hey Santa where is your beard?” I feigned ignorance and replied. “What are you talking about?” but I could see the glow in her eyes and how her inner child was reawakened that day with a surprise visit by Santa to her workplace.
The next year 2011 Elsa moved away but still called us a few days before the school visit and we were honored to play Santa and Mrs. Claus yet again. After our school visit we drove straight to the bank and walked in to pose with photos with the senior managers. They were completely caught off guard but their inner children smiled as Santa extended his arms around them all at once. Santa left them with edible gifts of taffy, candy canes and chocolate. The bond formed from donning a simple red costume and invoking the name of Santa Claus has blossomed into multiple friendships from the school and carried over to our church and from United Blood Services to the bank.
This year 2012 Elsa never called and the Santa Suit is almost beyond repair. We did not partake of the wearing of the lineage this season. Our original suit remains in storage three states from here.
I have taken this moment in time to write about my conversion from wearing a tattered old suit held together by a few stitches and nothing more. A poor man’s Santa suit that changed more than one life and from the eyes of Santa gazing into your eyes he has seen the child in us all and it’s a beautiful thing.
As our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ instructed us to come to him as little children; through the role playing of a saintly old man borne of folklore long ago I have a slight impression of to what my Savior was and is referring to for each of us to enter into a life after death when death will be the last enemy of God to be destroyed and when the true spirit of Christmas will be celebrated each and every day for all eternity.
Paul Rodgers-Live from Glasgow-2007.12
The Santa Suit page 4
A Christmas Story