Suzie Meets Santa
Christmas is for kids. However, many adults derive their own pleasure from watching a child’s anticipation and enthusiasm for the season. I was seven and my sister was four when she discovered the wonder of Christmas. She involved all the adults around her in its magic.
It was mother who got the Christmas ball rolling with the gift of the advent calendar. After that it was all downhill. For Suzie, the Christmas ball took on a life of its own - rolling faster and growing bigger all the way to December 25th.
Holding out the calendar mother said, “Now Suzie, this is a special calendar. We open a little window every day. When they are all open it will be Christmas - Jesus’ birthday. Help me open the first window.”
Mother guided Suzie’s chubby finger to the first flap. They flipped it open and Suzie scooped the candy inside. Mother smiled, “Well, isn’t that a surprise! What do you say Suzie?”
Munching the candy, Suzie grinned, displayed a row of small brown teeth and said, “Chocolate.”
Seizing the teaching moment, mother prompted, “No Suzie, what’s the magic word?”
Suzie smiled back, “More, more.”
That’s the way it was with Suzie. If something was good, then more was better. And the advent calendar fit right with her thinking. Mother explained that Jesus got presents on his birthday, and that we would get presents on Christmas day when all the windows were open. I’m not sure how much she knew about the birth of Jesus, but Suzie knew right away there was a candy behind every window.
The next morning when mother asked to see her calendar, Suzie held it out proudly and announced, “Christmas now. It’s Christmas now.”
Actually it was only December 2nd, but when you looked at the calendar you knew what she meant. All the windows were open and all the candies were gone. Suzie had arranged for Christmas to come early. Mother thought it was funny so Suzie got another calendar but mother kept that one in her room and supervised the window openings.
The air waves hummed with Christmas music all day long. Mother explained these special songs were only played once a year and were called carols. Suzie started to call them ‘Santa songs’. Her favourite that year was ‘Frosty the Snowman’. Whenever it snowed, we would go out and build ‘Frosty’. She knew all the words and was very careful about dressing the snowman properly.
Father supplied the corncob pipe and there was plenty of coal for a button nose and two eyes. The big problem lay in finding the magic hat. Suzie tried endless possibilities. Our snowmen were outfitted in hockey toques, baseball caps, a battered sombrero and Father’s African pith helmet. Once she tried out the small veil pill box that mother wore to church. Even Suzie knew she had gone too far when mother told her that kind of behaviour led to no visits from Santa. After that, Suzie stuck with the Toronto Maple Leaf toque. Nothing worked. Despite her best efforts, there was no magic in any of the hats and our Frosty never came to life.
The next Saturday we went to Smith’s department store for our annual visit. You entered Santa’s house through a large candy cane entrance. Inside, the room was laid out like Santa’s workshop. In the early 1950’s even Santa was a stickler for organization. The toys were arranged with girls toys on the one side and boys on the other. The smaller toys were displayed first and, then, the larger and more expensive. It seemed that the elves had studied ‘Marketing 101’. There was a long, slow line snaking its way to Santa’s chair. None of the kids complained because it was a good chance to check out toys and make last minute adjustments to your list.
Suzie had memorized her list and kept repeating, “Barbara Anne skating doll and buggy, Pumpkin Head puppet, a playhouse and one orange cat.” She was more than ready.
When our turn came, mother suggested that I go up with Suzie in case she was afraid. An elf handed us two candy canes. Suzie waved the elf away, climbed up on Santa’s knee and began, “Hi Santa. My name is Suzie and I’ve been very good. Do you know what I want for Christmas?” Then she ran through her list without stopping for a breath.
Santa listened and responded, “Ho, ho, ho! That’s good. I know you Suzie. Who is that with you?”
Suzie looked at me from her privileged position and said, “That’s my brother, John.”
Santa asked with a smile, “Has your brother been good, too?”
Suzie wrinkled her brow, scrunched her eyes and answered, “No, not all the time.”
Santa frowned, “Not all the time? What does he do that’s so bad?”
Suzie knew this was a chance for payback and said, “Sometimes, he won’t let me play with his toys.”
Santa gave me a hard look. For a second, I thought he was going to take back my candy cane. Then he said, “Now John, you’re a big boy. You must look after your sister and always share your toys.”
Betrayed by a four-year-old, I studied my shoes and muttered, “Yes sir.”
After that, Suzie and Santa had a fine old chat while the elf and I looked on. She reviewed all her items. Santa was so taken with her that he never asked me what I wanted.
As we were leaving he pointed a warning finger and said, “Now, be a good boy, John.”
Thanks to Suzie, that was a wasted visit for me. I figured I’d better try a write-in-campaign. If I could get my cub master to vouch for me, I might still be able to salvage something. The visit had filled Suzie with such confidence that she strutted around like Santa was her Uncle from far away.
One night, at supper, father turned to mother and said, “You know Suzie really seems to be enjoying the Christmas season. I’d like to do something special for her this year.”
Since mother had started the whole countdown thing, he figured she would be receptive.
“Well, Jack Hayward mentioned that he had a Santa outfit and he’s making appearances at the Legion and the Lion’s club. He said he would like to drop by and visit the kids when he finished,” father enthused.
Pursing her lips, mother said, “I don’t know about that. It sounds a bit risky with Jack.”
Father responded, “Now dear, Jack’s a bachelor. Doesn’t have any family. He just wants to be around some kids at Christmas. He’ll be fine.”
Still skeptical, mother answered, “I’m not so sure. I only met Jack twice at the Legion, and he wasn’t fine either time.”
Father continued to argue, “Listen dear, Jack said he would visit us last. He’ll have plenty of practice by then and he won’t stop long.”
Mother was so caught up on Suzie’s Christmas that she weakened. “All right, if you think it’s okay. Go ahead and invite Jack.”
Suzie and I were very excited when father told us that Santa was going to pay us a personal visit. Mother said we could stay up because he would arrive past our usual bedtime. Of course Suzie was jumping at the chance to renew conversation with her old friend Santa. As for me, I saw this as an opportunity to get back in his good books. I’d been especially good about sharing since the trip to the department store. Besides, I intended to get to him before Suzie could say anything bad about me. Everyone was prepared for a big night. We just didn’t know how big.
It was about 9:30 when we heard the tinkle of bells at our door. Father opened it and said with a with a smile, “What a surprise! Look who’s here kids. It’s Santa! Welcome Santa, come right in.”
Santa was a really big guy. He wavered a bit and bumped into the door jamb as he entered. He managed a gurgled, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”, and shook hands with father. Father gave Santa a quizzical look and then, taking a firm grip on his shoulder, guided him to the big easy chair. Mother looked back shaking her head.
Trying to take control, father said, “Here Santa, maybe you should sit down for a while. You look a bit wobbly. Are you tired?”
Santa slumped into the chair and, peering about, said, “Busy night Johnny. Old Santa had a busy night. The boys at the legion and the Lion’s treated old Santa very well. Where’re the kids?”
Seeing my big chance. I moved right in and piped up, “Hi Santa. I’m John and I’ve been sharing my toys just like you told me. Everybody says I’ve been very good. I even have a letter from my cub leader.”
Santa reached out for me but somehow missed making contact. He fixed me with an unsteady look and said, “That’s fine Johnny. I never forget the good boys.”
Santa smelled kind of funny so I backed away. Suzie headed straight for his lap and almost made it. As she closed in, Santa began a slow, downward slump and slid nose-first onto the carpet.
Suzie ran to his side crying, “Santa! Santa!” Looking up to mother she asked, “Is Santa dead?”
Mother smiled sweetly and then said, “No dear. Santa is sleeping. And it’s time you and John went to bed too.”
At next morning’s breakfast, the silence between mother and father hung as heavy as a three-day blanket of snow. Then Suzie came rushing in.
“Where’s Santa?” she asked. “Didn’t he sleep over?”
Mother broke the silence and said, “No Suzie. Santa had to go back to the North Pole.”
Suzie looked puzzled. “That’s too bad. I thought of a few more things I would like. I was going to make him cookies and milk for breakfast. Will Santa be coming back?”
Mother gave father a long, hard look and said, “Yes dear, Santa will be coming back on Christmas Eve when we are all asleep. But I’m afraid there will be no more personal visits from Mr. Claus to our house.”
And there never were.