Photo provided by Jenn Stone.
He stood in our front hall, smiling from ear to ear and almost quivering with excitement. There wasn’t a nervous bone in his body. He had taken great care choosing his outfit. The same way anyone else who was preparing for a job interview would. Gold lamé pants from a golden knight costume that I had made him for Halloween, a red shirt, Christmas red to be exact, a Santa hat and his black winter boots.
JT had been preparing for this day for almost a year, since the previous December. He had been preparing The Doc and I for his absence for just as long. “When I go to work at the North Pole,” he had stated repeatedly throughout the year. “I won’t be able to live at home anymore,” He did admit that he would miss us, but implied that the responsibility of the job would be too important, though he may be able to take time off to visit when he wasn’t busy.
It was December 1997. JT was five but would turn six that New Years Eve. He loved to dress up and had an imagination that overflowed with castles, knights, dragons, action figures and The North Pole. The previous year, right before Christmas, we had purchased the video of The Santa Clause with Tim Allen. After only one viewing, JT was mesmerized by The North Pole; and who wouldn’t be after seeing such a wonderful and magical depiction of the place. You have to give Disney credit for their attention to detail. The Santa Clause still ranks as one of my favourite Christmas movies, second only to The Muppet Christmas Carol and followed by A Christmas Story.
JT didn’t give much thought to Tim Allen’s version of Santa, but he certainly could relate to young Charlie’s wonder and excitement over the big guy’s home. So much so that he decided he wanted to go live there. For the next year, it was as if we were living our own version of the movie. I originally thought this idea would lose traction by the time Easter, then summer vacation rolled around. Surely he would be over this fetish by Halloween; but no, here it was December and we were heading to the local mall to see Santa where JT was going to ask him for a job.
As a parent, I had no desire to crush my child’s dreams, but I was beginning to worry about how the situation was going to play out with the mall Santa. It wasn’t as if I could call beforehand to give him a heads up, or discretely pass him a note before my kid climbed on his lap. The situation had the potential to go really bad, really fast.
We went early, earlier than Santa and his helpers and earlier than any other kids and parents. JT sat on the floor at what would be the front of the line with me standing behind him. He was surprisingly patient and chattered a little about going to The North Pole before sitting silently with his dreams.
When Santa arrived, he was the real deal. No cotton-ball beard for him. No flimsy suit or scraggly-looking hat. JT stood up with anticipation and ran forward when they gave him the OK. He climbed onto Santa’s waiting lap and, before anyone could say anything, blurted out his request. “Can I come to The North Pole with you? I want to be an elf.”
Santa, who had to immediately swallow his Ho-Ho-Ho, what-do-you-want-for-Christmas line, was a bit taken back by this request so I filled in the gap with, “I’m not sure he’s old enough yet. He is only five.”
“Ho Ho,” said Santa, with a voice as jolly as you would expect the perfect Santa to sound. “I have a lot of equipment at the North Pole, and you have to be big enough to drive. I would be happy to have you come work for me when you are a little older.”
JT was over the moon with the prospect of future employment at The North Pole, and I was relieved that the situation hadn’t resulted in any tears or broken dreams. Every Christmas I think of this Santa. I wonder how many other kids required creative thinking on his part. I am guessing there were many during his seasonal stints. Kids, after all, are very unpredictable. I also think about the parents of these kids, whether they actually realized how amazing this Santa was or if they just took him for granted. From my perspective, I know I will never forget when the best Santa ever gave my son the best Christmas gift ever.
Happy holidays and thanks for reading.