When I was young, so long ago I can barely remember, a visit with Santa was a very special mid-to late December happening. There was little TV, no computer, social media, or cell phones. The arrival of Santa was low-key and the list for presents was very simple.
This year I saw Santa arriving before November. He clearly is not helping the elves to develop all the electronic toys for the holiday, nor at his age can he figure it out what to do with them (that is probably why he leaves the North Pole earlier and earlier each year).
When the oldest (the big kids) were young we would go a place near our house and “The Clauses” would make a special stop, just after lunch. Our girls were dressed in velvet dresses and Tim in scratchy, wool, short pants (Tim hated every moment). Santa always looked like the imagined Santa, red suit, round figure, and white hair, eyebrows, and beard. The kids were transported to the North Pole just by looking at him.
Every child got a turn on the famous lap, asking for the hoped for gift/gifts. Parents were listening and also hoping that the gift they had purchased was the one their child would mention. Our family works on the seniority system, so Molly was first, then Maggie, Kate, and finally Tim. Tim would only sit for a moment, because of his itchy pants, but he could get his list out quickly.
When Kate was 3 1/2, we again were at the Santa lunch, she hopped on his lap and was in the middle reciting her list, when Santa looked down and his bushy white eyebrows fell in her lap. She looked up said “Santa your eyebrows fell down”, with that he picked them up put them back on and she continued without missing a beat. For several years after she would comment on how Santa’s eyebrows fell down, not that that was strange, just that it had happened.
As our family and those of our friends got larger, we had a December afternoon/evening hayride and dinner at Hanson’s Ranch. There were no velvet dresses or scratchy wool short pants, just jeans and sweaters, perfect. It was so much fun to get all the kids together, everyone brought something to share with sloppy joes or chili or bbq beef as the main. It was wonderful, casual and a beautiful way to start the Christmas season. The hayride was about 1 hour and hot chocolate was served. Santa always arrived at some point, he gave out similar gifts to all the kids and they were happy, even those who secretly knew that Santa was not who he said he was. The Santa was not always the imagined Santa, sometimes so skinny you thought he pulled the sleigh with the reindeer in it, all the way from the North Pole. You take what you can get, kids never thought he wasn’t perfect.
Tim and I missed dinner and Santa one year. He and his friend Patrick were running around a table, Tim stopped, Patrick did not and Tim did a face plant onto the concrete floor. His front teeth disappeared into his gums, we spent the evening at the emergency dentist. His teeth reappeared a few years later when the dentist uncovered them to make room for his permanent ones.