I’m reasonably sure no one below the age of 10 reads my essays, so what I am about to reveal is safe. Actually, based on email feedback, along with hand-written notes delivered by the US Postal Service — yes, the Postal Service still exists! Who knew? — I don’t think many people below the age of 70 read my stuff.
Anyway, here goes: the weekend before Christmas I was tricked into playing Santa Claus at a church pancake breakfast. The way they tricked me into doing it was especially devious. They said, “Bill, we need someone to play Santa. Will you do it?”
Can you believe such a fiendish ploy? They came right out and asked me! What could I do, say, “Sorry, I’ll be out of town that day”? No, of course not. So I was stuck doing it.
Later, when I told my wife, she said, “We’re schedule to be out of town that day.” Oh great, now I had to cancel my out of town plans. Those church people can be really sneaky.
Some of my friends heard that I was schedule to be Saint Nick. Their encouraging comments were quite helpful, such as, “Oh, they want a sarcastic Santa this year?” “Really? Without even doing a criminal background check?” and, “Please don’t traumatize the children!”
When the day finally arrived, I donned the Santa outfit, complete with wig, beard, black boots, white gloves, and a pillow stuffed under the red jacket. When I was completely dressed, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Wow, this is quite an honor to wear The Special Suit. I can’t let those kids down.”
My second thought was, “Holy mackerel, this is so hot! I’m already sweating like LeBron James in the 4th quarter!”
One of the women who assisted me in getting dressed thought the pillow made me look like Dolly Parton. So she proceeded to adjust the shape of the pillow by repeatedly punching me in the chest. As she flailed away, she looked kind of like Mike Tyson working out on the heavy bag. (And she hit like Tyson, too! My ribs are still sore.)
To be honest, it was quite humbling to have a bunch of wide-eyed youngsters sit on my lap and tell me what they wanted for Christmas. I did not blurt out nearly as many snarky comments as everyone (including me) assumed I would. But don’t worry, parents, when they told me what they wanted for Christmas, I didn’t promise anything! I simply said I would do my best and that they’d be surprised and happy on Christmas morning. Then I turned the tables and said to the kids, “But you have to do me a favor: make sure you leave out some cookies for me, and some carrots for the reindeer.” (I was going to say, “Quid pro quo, Clarice,” but I figured not too many five-year-olds are familiar with dialog from “The Silence of the Lambs,” so I let it slide.)
There was one moment that was very special. A little boy about six or seven years old, whose father passed away earlier in the year, told me what he wanted for Christmas: “I want a coffee mug, to give to my dad in Heaven.”
Oh my, the kids aren’t supposed to make Santa cry. I’m sure his father looked down at this scene with eyes just as misty as mine.
Well, all in all, I think it went rather well, although I lost about 15 pounds sweating in that Santa suit. Unfortunately, next year I will be unable to reprise my role, as I’ll be out of town that day hyping my new best-selling book: “The Santa Suit Diet.”