Small-town Santas

Annually, Sinterklaas pays a visit to our berg, Santa Claus, too, each posing with kids from town and chatting with them as parents, grandparents, relatives and press click photo after photo.

The reactions of kids vary from the ones bolting for the door in sheer terror to the ones that would happily spend an hour with the good saint, comparing notes on what it’s like to be a kid and getting or not getting the longed-for gift or wishing that we all could just get along.

Observations on Sinterklaas, the Dutch saint, beloved by my small wanna-be-Dutch community, will wait for another time.

I’ve not experienced the mall Santa or the department-store Santa, but the small-town Santa’s got them beat, by a good stretch, I’m sure. Why,  only today, while getting photos of kids for our local paper, I was struck by a number of things.

Santa and his wife are an actual couple. He’s on the city council. She’s a teacher. They know a majority of the kids that come down the short candy-cane lane for a conversation and a bag of candy, nuts and chocolate, packed by local Chamber of Commerce volunteers.

The legend of Santa knowing who is “naughty and nice” is mightily strengthened by the observations of this year’s Santa Claus, dressed to the nines in red and white, bewigged and bewhiskered by hurt-your-eyes white hair. He comments on one child’s recent performance in the school Christmas program. To another, who wishes for a new basketball, he observes that the lad could use a little practice (Ho! Ho! Ho!); he’s seen him drilling in the driveway. He did refrain from comment, though, when the lad who went a bit wild with a new BB gun the year before, stopped by. After all, that happened a while ago, water under the dam.

Santa’s wife, in the lulls between kids, helps me sort through the photos. “Isn’t digital wonderful?” She reminds Santa that he should be wearing his hat, removed earlier in a moment of irritation, and that he should pitch his voice lower to give it more gravitas. (Did I mention she’s a music teacher?)

Complain all you want about the commercialization of Christmas and the emphasis on getting gifts. What I see each year is a bunch of adults taking time to make the season special for kids, determined to help families of all types find another something to do together. It’s imperfect, sure, but there are jewels in Santa’s beard, too. And, they are easy to spot if I take the time to visit Santa’s workshop.

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3 thoughts on “Small-town Santas

  1. This brought back such a wonderful memory for me. I thought I might try to fit it into my blog, but I’m running out of Christmas season, so I’ll just tell you.

    When I was a kid, Santa came to our house every year. The first time he came, I wasn’t in school yet. He brought me a rubber duck that served as a floating soap dish in the bathtub. He came every, single year — through grade school, junior high, high school. I have photos from a couple of those years. He always seemed to have just the right gift.

    Finally, I got old enough and smart enough to start asking questions. Who was he, really? Finally, after his visit during my senior year in high school, my dad told me. It was Don Hulse, an engineer who worked with him at Maytag. I thought it probably was one of Dad’s buddies, and Don was perfect — he was Santa-like in personality, anyway.

    The next year, I was home from college for Christmas. My folks were having a gathering, and the Hulses, the Ringwalds, and some others I don’t remember were there. About nine o’clock, the doorbell rang. When I answered — there stood Santa.

    Everyone’s mouth dropped open: my parents, Don, everyone. While they were exchanging puzzled glances, Santa gave me my present. It was Chanel No.5 — the 1.7 ounce spray.

    That was Santa’s last visit to me at home, but i still have the classic Chanel black case. It’s been refilled a time or two over the years, and every Christmas, I wear Chanel No.5.

    Gotta love those small town Santas.

      1. Yep. Dad, with his high school education, started at John Deere/Moline during the war. He and mom moved to Newton in ’45 or so, he got into the Industrial Engineering department, and eventually worked his way up to a supervisory position.

        Oh, could I tell stories about those Industrial Engineers. When they had one of their parties at our house, I always got sent away for the evening. 🙂

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