Note: This column appears in the 12/23 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/24 issue of the Peoria Times
Last weekend we took our hopefully-soon-to-be-daughter (this is how she will be referred to for the time being) to see Santa Claus.
We had heard that Santa would be making an appearance at Walmart, and so that was our initial plan, for no other reason than it was the closest stop on Santa’s world tour. But when I called ahead to make sure, I was told that he was there last weekend, and had since returned to the North Pole Walmart. In the end this was probably good news, as I wouldn’t have to resist the temptation to ask Walmart Santa if he was receiving proper health benefits. More importantly, it saved us a trip to Walmart. A little piece of me dies every time I have to go there.
Whatchu mean you ain't got no Santee Clauses?
Unfortunately, this forced us to acknowledge the inevitable: we were going to the mall. On a Saturday. Just before Christmas. To see Santa. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this, based on my vast experience of walking past the mosh pit that is the mall Santa area and thinking to myself, “I am so unbelievably happy that I am not in that situation right now. I think I’ll get a pretzel.”
Even with the dread of the impending holiday mall crowd, there was never even a consideration of not going to see Santa. My wife even mentioned that she didn’t care about the pictures -– she just wanted her to see Santa. I had to remind her that part of the allure of meeting Santa Claus is getting the proper documentation, especially when you’re dealing with a three-month old who wouldn’t know the difference between sitting on Santa’s lap and sitting on a pile of dirty laundry.
Even as we pushed a stroller down the endless mall parking lot and then weaved our way through the indifferent and inconsiderate human traffic of JC Penny, I was oddly excited. When we got to the mall and discovered that the line to see Santa Claus was eight miles long, I didn’t care. In fact, I was happy. Standing in line in a hot mall amidst a flurry of foaming-at-the-mouth children just so you can have your own child -- who will either be haunted by the experience or not remember it at all -- sit on the lap of a total, albeit jolly, stranger is a rite of passage for parents. And I think that’s what made me so happy.
I felt like a parent.
She met the big guy, and we have the pictures to prove it. Our hopefully-soon-to-be-daughter slumped over in the middle of Santa’s lap, with her big brown eyes wide open, seemingly marveling at the wonderment of Christmas, but in reality just reacting to the loud toy the camera girl was shaking to get her attention. She won’t remember it. But we will.
Another thing I’ll remember is to never go near a mall food court, especially on a Saturday during the holidays. Mall food courts make Walmart feel like a Hallmark store. I almost got killed just passing Sbarro. Stupid parents.