I have a series of Santa Claus At The Mall photographs of Lewis grinning like the Cheshire Cat and sitting no less than 6 feet ahead of Santa. Santa is seen in the distance in all these photographs, doing his best to make his smile known to anyone who may happen upon these photographs.
I wish I could say that Christmas 1999 dispelled any concerns Lewis had about Santa’s less than honourable global activities during the holiday season, but truth be told, there was a rash of break-ins on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that year in our community. It didn’t matter that our home remained untouched by criminal activity; what mattered is that other homes in the near vicinity saw their Christmas gifts and other property stolen.
Christmas 2000, Lewis was in French immersion kindergarten (another story to be told at some later date, I assure you). He was a beautiful child with amber brown eyes and blond hair that fell in soft curls about his face. Everyone who saw him commented on how he embodied the cherubim look of the great masters of the Renaissance period.
That year, we travelled to a mall on the outskirts of the city we lived in. I had been told that the Santa there had, as Clement Moore had written, “a broad face and a round little belly that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.” And so he was! There was hope, or so I thought, that this Santa would be able to quell my son’s concerns about whether Santa was a criminal … or made a habit of being in the company of criminals.
As we stood in line, I whispered excitedly, “When Santa’s walking around in the mall, he’s always jingling those bells he carries with him. If he was a criminal, he wouldn’t want to bring attention to himself.” Lewis sighed. Oh, that his mother could be so innocent and naive about the situation weighed heavily on his little pre-schooler shoulders.
“Mommy,” he began with that tone of voice I had come to know so well. “Remember we watched ‘Oliver‘ on television in the summer? What do you think the elves are doing when Santa is getting the attention?” Foiled again by the scene about picking a pocket or two!
And then it was Lewis’ turn to give Santa his list of toys he was hoping for that Christmas. Instead of walking up to Santa and sitting on his lap, Lewis walked only so far up the ramp and stopped. Santa tried desperately to cajole him to come closer and whisper his wish list to him. There was no convincing Lewis to move any closer. Finally, Santa acquiesced.
“What would you like for Christmas?” he asked.
“Didn’t you read the email I sent you?” Lewis replied. Ah yes, the email that had been sent to Santa at the beginning of December. If only I had remembered to mention that quickly to an assistant elf to forewarn Santa of the inevitable question from Lewis.
“Er …. of course, I did,” Santa said. He paused. “I’m just making sure you didn’t change your mind since you wrote to me.” It was a classic “save” move that every parent hopes they can make from time to time, and Santa had pulled it off. Behind Lewis’ back, I gave Santa a big thumbs up and a big smile.
“No,” said Lewis. “I don’t change my mind. When I make up my mind, I make up my mind. So, what did you think of my list? Did you understand everything I asked for?” Santa laughed heartily and said he did but Lewis wasn’t so easily convinced.
“Are you bringing me a Megamind 2000?” he asked. I started to shake my head “no” and wave my arms wildly to get Santa’s attention. The Megamind 2000 (which is also a blog entry for another day) was one of Lewis’ inventions — still only just an idea but with schematics in his book of ideas at home. No one would be getting a Megamind 2000 for Christmas that year because not even the prototype had been built yet. What’s worse, it wasn’t something Lewis had written in his email to Santa.
“If I can find one, I will,” Santa assured him. Lewis’ eyes narrowed and his lips pursed. He wasn’t sure if Santa was lying to him or threatening to steal his precious book of ideas.
“And if you have to come to my house, do not come in my house. You are not allowed. Just leave things on the front porch, ok?” Lewis directed Santa.
“But what if they get stolen?” Santa asked.
“What if you put them inside and forget to lock the door and they get stolen anyway?” Lewis put forth as a reasonable possibility to Santa’s. “At least my way, my mom is safe and I’m safe.”
Santa held out a small candy cane to Lewis. “Would you like this candy cane?”
“Yes,” Lewis answered.
“Then come here and get it from me, and we’ll have a photo taken together,” Santa suggested.
“How about you just throw it over here. I’ll sit down on the ramp. We can still have a picture together that way,” Lewis proposed.
“But,” Santa objected, “the candy cane will get broken when it falls on the ground!”
“It’s going to get broken when I bite it,” Lewis countered. Santa stopped short for a moment. He handed the candy cane to one of his lovely assistant elves, whispered something to her and waved in Lewis’ general direction. She came padding down the ramp and just as quickly as she padded down the ramp, Lewis backed up on the ramp. She stopped finally, put the candy cane down and returned to her spot beside Santa.
Lewis walked up the ramp, picked up the candy cane, turned around and promptly sat down on the ramp. “I’m ready for the picture, mommy,” he said with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. And so he was.
The photographer readjusted his camera to accommodate the fact that my son was now sitting 6 feet ahead of Santa instead of on his lap, ensuring that the photo would include both Lewis and Santa.
As we left Santa’s area at the mall, photograph in hand, Lewis turned to me and said confidently, “I think that went well, mommy, but I still don’t want Santa in our house. Santa is a criminal.”
NOTE: Read the follow-up blog entry to “Santa Y2K” about Santa’s new designation as of Christmas 2002. Coming to this blog early next week.