Welcome to the season of the Jolly Old Elf.
When my children were young, I had visions every year of getting a good picture of them sitting on Santa’s lap. I wanted a picture just like the one I had seen of my sister and I at very young ages sitting on that same lap, smiling in anticipation of the season.
As a little girl, I remember looking at that picture. Santa looked good, and my sister and I looked good too. We were really dressed up, far beyond what we would normally wear. Our hair was curled. Our coats were clean, and if memory serves, there was a muff involved.
And I wanted that same thing for my children.
So, the first year they were old enough to sit on their own, I took them for their initial visit. I got them all dressed up. I spit-curled my daughter’s hair and spit-cleaned my son’s cheek. I wanted them as sparkling as my sister and I had been in our photo.
Upon arrival, we took our place in a fairly long line of other youngsters eager to read their lists to Santa. I felt a little guilty because in my haste to get the perfect photo, I had forgotten all about their lists.
Not to fear. I prepped them in line while we waited.
“Do you remember what you wanted Santa to bring to you?” I asked each of them. They nodded, and I assumed we were good to go.
Slowly we inched our way to the head of the line. They were starting to sweat under those heavy winter coats, but they looked so darned cute, I wanted to keep them in full winter regalia.
“Just another minute,” I promised.
Sure enough, the kid ahead of us and his entourage moved ahead for their Santa visit, and my kids got the first view of Santa. Both broke out in screams. I tried to calm them down, but they would have none of it.
Santa was a great sport. Something told me the Kincaid children were not the first to holler in his presence. He tried to lure them his way with a candy cane. He tried to motion them to come forward to his chair. Nothing.
Finally, he waved goodbye to my little darlings.
The next year, we tried again. That time we didn’t even get to Santa’s on-deck circle. My kids saw Santa, waved, and walked away.
They were still young. I would give them another year, I consoled myself thinking.
In the mean time, my sister-in-law showed me a photo of her little ones on Santa’s lap. They were smiling, even playfully touching his beard. Just think how cute our kids would look doing that same thing, I told my husband. He did not share my concern.
The next year, I made out my own list for Santa, and tops on that list was the hope that my kids would sit on his lap for a picture. I shared that list with the children, just to guilt them into two minutes of smiling and waving to the camera.
Again, we got all decked out in our best Christmas gear. Same Santa, same walk-by wave.
What was wrong with these kids? Would it kill them to give me 30 seconds of a smile sitting on a strange man’s lap?
That same year, my father-in-law was playing the role of Santa for a neighborhood gathering. Perhaps it was his familiarity or maybe his kindness, but our children were so enthralled with Santa that they never realized that they might know him. Instead, they felt comfortable enough to go right up to him and wiggle onto his lap.
I stood amazed. They talked to him for about 10 minutes about the cookies they were going to leave him. They told him about the carrots we always leave for his reindeer. They even came up with a toy they would like to have for Christmas.
Dumbfounded, I just stood and watched. However, before they jumped off his lap, I had the presence of mind to grab for my camera. Sadly, it was at home on the kitchen table.
So, I never did get my 8x10 of the Kincaid children with Santa. But in my heart, I have a picture I will never forget.