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Even Santa has limitations

By Daris Howard

       The community Christmas party was only a few days away when the woman in charge called and asked, “Daris, would you be willing to be Santa at our Christmas party this year?”
       I taught the children music at church and knew them well. I love children and thought this would be a fun thing to do. I have also done a lot of acting and felt I could disguise my voice enough that they wouldn't recognize me, so I accepted.
       The night came, and after the community dinner, I dressed in the red garb, black boots, and fake beard and wig. At the appointed time, I ho-hoed my way into the big hall. The children rushed around me, and the adults had to clear a path so I could make my way to the chair that had been prepared for me.
       The first child of the night was a rambunctious little boy who pushed his way to the front of the line. He had more energy than a level 5 hurricane and could be a challenging little boy, but I loved him.
       I pulled him onto my lap. “So, Jason, have you been good this year?”
       He nodded. “I've been the best ever.”
       I laughed my Santa laugh. “Oh, really? What about that time you didn't shut the gate on the horse corral and the whole community was out trying to round up the horses?”
       His eyes grew wide with surprise. “You know about that?”
       “Of course. Santa knows everything.”
       “Well,” he said, “I've been mostly good most of the time.”
       I chuckled. “Don't worry about it. Even Santa isn't perfect. Did you know I accidentally let the reindeer out once? If you think chasing down horses is hard, you ought to see what it's like trying to corral flying reindeer.”
       He smiled and told me what he wanted for Christmas. I gave him a little hug and a bag of candy, and he climbed off of my lap and scampered off to his mother to tell her I was the real Santa.
       I personalized each child's experience, and each one was surprised to find out how much I knew about them. A few of the older children were quite sure they knew who I was, but even they laughed at what I could tell them about themselves, and they were mostly only there for the candy, anyway.
       The last child of the night was a feisty little girl who was about six years old. She was the youngest in her family by quite a bit. I knew her well and knew that she hadn't waited to be last because she was shy. Quite the contrary. I could tell that she had something important on her mind. I lifted her onto my lap and asked, “So, Brittany, have you been a good girl this year?”
       She had heard me talk to the other children, and she paused. Finally she said, “Mostly. Sometimes I get mad when my brother teases me about being the baby of the family. And sometimes I don't do my chores.”
       I laughed. “Well, even I haven't been perfect.”
       “Really?” she asked.
       “No,” I replied. “I got mad at Rudolph one night when he was sneaking around scaring elves, jumping out at them with his glowing nose.”
       Her eyes grew wide with wonder. “Really?”
       “Yes,” I replied. “Even Santa can have one of those days, or nights, as it may be. So what would you like for Christmas?”
       She sat up straight and looked right at me very seriously. “I want a baby brother so everyone will quit calling me the baby of the family.”
       Brittany's mom was there taking pictures, and she let out an exasperated gasp. “Brittany, I have told you and told you that you are not getting a baby brother!”
       Brittany leaned up close and whispered in my ear. “You see how she is? I decided it was time to go over her head.”
       I laughed. “You know, Brittany, I'm not sure Santa is over your mom's head on this one.”
       Yes, even Santa has limitations on what he can do.

       Daris Howard, who grew up on an Idaho farm, is an author, playwright and math professor at BYU Idaho. His website is darishoward.com.

(Posted 12/16/14; Opinion: General)

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