Tis the season
By Marlene Ratledge Buchanen
It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas - and it was just Halloween! I understand that there are only eight weeks between Halloween and Christmas, and that during that time we have to squeeze in Thanksgiving. Retailers make the majority of their profits during these weeks. I do understand all that. However, I hate Christmas shopping. I really do.
I love the decorations, but our country’s financial situation and “political correctness” have taken away all the beautiful extravagances of the holidays. We used to go to the Northlake Mall when James was small. It had the prettiest Santa Claus. We would just walk around and look at the beautiful windows and the displays in the center of the Mall.
Of course, we always did Santa Claus. James was ready to see him, until he saw him!
We would whisper and cajole, and finally he would reluctantly approach this Paragon of Christmas. Once he had accomplished the first approach and lap sitting, he would be ready to go again.
One of my early jobs was being Santa’s elf and photographer at Atlanta’s big Sears on Ponce de Leon. That is probably when I made two big life decisions. One was a career move. I learned right then that I couldn’t teach the little ones. Give me the big teenagers in the throes of adolescent angst, not the young ones. I didn’t know what to do with those who cried a lot, peed on Santa or threw up. (Not to say I didn’t go through boxes of Kleenex with the teenagers. Mostly it was the parents crying. The teenagers knew all the answers.)
As Santa’s elf, I was expected to make these frightened little ones smile and laugh at the big fuzzy man. Yeah, right! Because of this experience, I was prepared for James’ reluctance. I had lots of practice. I took a lot of pictures of mamas holding their children and sitting in Santa’s lap. The kids didn’t get much out of it, but one of my Santas LOVED it. He was replaced after the first few days.
The other impact of being an Official Santa Elf is that I don’t care for Christmas shopping and I can take holiday music for only so long. I was so conditioned at Sears that when Gene Autry’s “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” played I knew Santa had to take a break. Now, when I hear it, I have to take a break.
The best part of being Santa’s Elf was enjoying all the smiles and laughter. However, there were plenty of other reactions as well. Mamas and Daddys would bring in their little ones. Some would be scared to death while others couldn’t wait to get to Santa. The children would be dressed in such cute outfits. Upon arriving at the mall, parents went first to Santa’s Place because 10 minutes later the beautiful outfits might be disheveled. Many would be full of throw-up. It just depended on how frightened and nervous the parents had made the little ones about meeting “The Man”. Parents were their children’s own worst enemy at Santa’s Place.
Most of the seasonal labor was college kids and mothers. We had the best time talking to shoppers and laughing with them and each other. We were diligent workers, on our feet for eight solid hours, but we tried our best to enjoy the job and make the people happy.
Sears had a huge restroom that had a beautiful lobby area with tables and chairs. Many of us would meet in there and have our brown-bagged lunches. As women would find a seat, we would hear the shoes drop! I can’t remember ever laughing so hard as when we would all sit around together.
In all the years I worked for Santa, none of our Santa Clauses were Christian. They were Jewish. I found that interesting. I don’t ‘know why they were all Jewish, but they were. I learned a lot about their faith, and maybe they learned a little about Presbyterianism. Anyway, we had a good time.
That is what I think we should be about. Laughter, enjoying one another and taking a break when “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” plays. Just stop. Whatever your beliefs are. Just stop. Hug somebody (preferably a family member or dear friend), take a deep breath and smile.
Happy HO-HO-HO, Y’all