One of my favorite family traditions is our Santa Picture. Every year we trek over to the mall and wait in line to get the kids' picture taken. I have a pictorial journal of my kid's growing up and I love it!
You might think that my kids would get too old for this, and yes there have been years (and many of them) where bribery and threats were involved. But one thing that's made the past 8 years a lot easier is the Santa that has been employed at our mall.
He reminds me a little bit of the Santa in Miracle on 34th street. - the good version from 1947, because a) his hair and beard are real, and 2) he actually likes kids.
I know, what a concept, right?
The first year we saw him, he had the kids sit for the obligatory picture, and then my little girls wanted to talk with him, of course. Buddy and Hannah had proclaimed themselves too old to need a private moment with the big guy. So Santa listened carefully to Mimi and Lizzie, and asked them some pertinent questions about how good they'd been.
After they'd finished and we were standing there waiting for our picture to print, he motioned for Hannah to come back and talk to him.
I couldn't hear what they said, but she had a genuine smile on her face, so I wasn't too worried about it. Then he wanted to talk to Buddy, so this time I moved in closer to eavesdrop on what the heck was going on.
He shook Buddy's hand (and kind of held onto it) and told him that he was a great guy, and his parents were really proud of him and the things he was doing. He asked a question or two about school, and then gave him a pep talk about how important school and grades are, and how the choices we make every day - even in the little things - determine the person you will be.
Oh. My. Goodness.
I loved that guy.
Two things occurred to me at that point. First, I realized why the line moved so slowly - if he really took that much time with everyone. And second, I don't care how long that line is, we would wait in it every single year.
And every year, I've been more convinced that if there IS a real Santa, this is the guy.
Santa isn't there this year.
Oh, there's some guy wearing red pants sitting there, but Santa is gone.
You know, for a guy I've only ever seen 8 times, I'm really going to miss him. I know he was just a man doing a job, but I have to appreciate a man who's willing to really give it everything.
He could have just sat there shoving candy canes at kids all day long, getting paid exactly the same hourly rate, and it would have been much less effort. But instead he took the time to care, and to make the world a little bit better place.
I've never been a big fan of Hillary Clinton, but even before her book was written, I believed that it really does take a village to raise a child. Every single person who is willing to make a little difference in the life of a child can have an impact. Even a department store Santa.
I'll miss that guy.