Trust and believe, my general disdain for small children is well-known. Even as a burgeoning kindergartener, I was never a fan of others in my age bracket. I find kids to be equally loud, frenetic, and impetuous—like a dray of rabid squirrels. Try as I might, children are not my bag, baby.
So, imagine my surprise when my friend Mithra asked me to portray Santa at her school this holiday season. Had it not been filled with Botox, my face surely would have scrunched up like a shar-pei puppy. Internally though, I winced. She gave me a lengthy list of reasons why I would be perfect in the role—none of which were remotely enticing: 1) I’m already jolly, 2) the costume is fancy, and 3) “you won’t need any padding,” she quipped, patting my protruding pandemic gut.
I told her no—and I meant it. “Categorically—no. Unequivocally—no,” I said.
Shrewd and calculating businesswoman that she is, she upped the ante. “Fine. You only have to do it for one hour and I’ll give you 20,000 Southwest points once you’re done,” she added.
Curses! She knew my perpetual weakness for being a wayward travelmonger (uh, and a points whore). I reluctantly acquiesced.
When the day came, I did what any good Santa would do. I popped two Xanax and inserted a teeny pair of noise-cancelling earbuds in my ears. Once dressed, I fit the bill perfectly. It helped that the spendy Santa costume Mithra purchased was convincing. It was accessorized to the hilt and had a bit of old-timey Victorian flair to it. Mithra ushered me to a classroom where teachers had created a gift-laden, winter wonderland-esque backdrop and oversized throne for me to sit upon.
When I walked in—dutifully ringing my bell and “Ho-Ho-Ho”-ing my ass off—children descended upon me like flies. I don’t know where they all came from. Some appeared to rappel down from the ceiling. I quickly realized this was how it was going to end. I was going to attempt to take a step and plummet to my doom, inevitably taking out two or three tethered toddlers with me.
Teachers—sensing the urgency of the situation—scraped children off me like barnacles, and I eventually made it to Santa’s seat. The kids promptly lined up to meet me. Once I got my bearings, I noticed the line snaked out the door of the school and around the building, eventually ending in the parking lot of a nearby McDonald’s.
“20,000 Southwest points,” I muttered to myself. “And—remember—you’ve done a lot worse for a lot less, Mackie.”
The first few children were a breeze. They were chatty and engaging. And then came Miranda.
Clearly, Ms. Miranda had an agenda. She was a political lobbyist masquerading in candy cane pajamas. Miranda had somehow—inexplicably—memorized her entire Christmas wish-list. I lost count (and the will to live) around the 40th item. At one point I must have dozed off because Miranda grabbed my nearby bell, rang it, and asked if I was still listening. I yammered something about how busy Miranda would keep the elves this year. As if on cue, my knee—which was now asleep—gave out and Miranda half-slid, half-tumbled off my lap. She was still talking as she exited the room (not by her own free will, mind you).
Another couple of dozen kids politely came and went without much fanfare. That is, until one girl stared me down and earnestly asked how I had arrived at the school that day. Without one iota of hesitation, I replied, “Uber!” Her eyes narrowed. “What’s Uber?!” she demanded to know. A quick-thinking teacher exclaimed, “Uber—the reindeer, dear!” I chimed in, “Yes! On Comet and Uber and Donner and Blitzen, gurl!”
I’m still not sure if she bought it. Four-year-olds are not easily fooled.
By the end of the hour, I was exhausted. I had lost track of time and space. Every single boy wanted a dinosaur of some type. Each and every girl wanted an LOLZ rainbow doll. With just a handful of kids to go, a girl leapt up on my lap and immediately wanted to know why I was so sweaty. “It’s cold at the North Pole, sister,” I told her. “It’s really warm down here in Kansas. That’s why I’m sweating.”
“Santa, are you having a heart attack?” she asked. “Because my mommy is a nurse!”
Teachers, parents, administrators—and a few McDonald’s employees who had shown up out of nowhere for free snacks—all doubled over with titters of laughter. It was a fitting end to my first, last, and only stint as Santa.
When I peeled myself out of the Santa suit, my friend Mithra seemed pleased with how things went. That is, until she tried to pick the garment off the ground. “Why is this dripping? Wait, is this sweat?” she asked before wringing out the cape. “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to dry-clean this or burn it?” she said to no one in particular.
Given that I had lost six pounds of water weight that day, I hastily booked a free-ish flight to Puerto Vallarta in mid-January. Son of a beach—Merry Xmas to me!