I am convinced that the magic and spirit of Christmas was with us as we set out on our quest to see Santa. Two years ago would be our last attempt, with Kieran on my hip and Anna in my belly. With tear filled eyes and red cheeks bright enough to light Santa's sleigh, that was enough for Erik to throw in the towel. I thought I might do the same, but the Christmas spirit (and my sister) moved me to have a change of heart.
If we keep skipping Santa, how will he know what gifts to bring? And, if we keep skipping Santa, by the time I decide that the kids are ready, I'm afraid that they won't believe!
Just before we left, I showed Kieran a picture of my niece and nephew, who are 4 and 2, both of whom were smiling away. Reassured that he too, could see jolly ol' Saint Nick to tell him what he wanted for Christmas, Kieran decided that this might be a good idea. As he smiled with anticipation, we made the short drive and arrived at our destination; a destination that would either bring Christmas cheer, or Christmas blues. I held my breath and crossed my fingers, for the former that is, definitely not the latter.
"Look, Kieran, look Anna! I think I see him! I think I see Santa!" Giant candy canes, glittered gingerbread men and decorated trees surround us as we approach the line to the North Pole.
Quietly admiring from afar, we make our way to the front of the line. "Hi, Santa, Hi, Santa!", Anna exclaims. This could be okay, I think to myself. This could actually be okay.
As we're waiting for our turn, a mom yells out to one of her son's on Santa's lap, "No, don't do that, do the soft smile!". The boy's face is plastered with the only fake smile he knows how, as the photographer shouts out the proverbial "cheese" (which never results in a good photo, by the way). He tries again with all his might as he is trying not to disappoint his mother. Attempt number two and the smile gets even worse. "Well just close your mouth then!" Close your mouth? Poor kid is trying to smile for Santa, not take a DMV photo gone wrong! He closes his mouth for just a moment, only to attempt a third time and he's back to awkward picture when I was 5 with Santa photo. No coaching for me, I'm lucky if I'll have two kids who aren't crying so hard that they've used Santa's suit as a giant kleenex to wipe their snot!
We approach the stairs to sit on Santa's lap and I have visions of Ralphie as he's shoved down the slide by Santa's big black boot, "Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas!". This could explode like a hand grenade in a matter of seconds, I think to myself. Kid #1 is on Santa's lap, and much to my dismay, kid #1 is smiling! Kid #2 could very well cling to my body like velcro, much like kid #1 did two years ago. At one point he was hanging on so tight, I completely let go while he hung on like a baby chimp does to his mommy!
I placed kid #2 on Santa's lap. The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, the little pint sized (and usually very loud) Anna, no crying she makes! I make a run for it next to the photographer and assistant, hoping to get her to smile. She's in shock, wide eyed and stone faced. No amount of peek-a-boo is moving her as her big brother so sweetly grins away. She flashes her hand signs and shouts, "All done! All done!"
Just when I think I am out of luck, I remember the Santa beanie baby sitting on top of the photographers camera. I run swiftly to Anna, placing the beanie baby in her hands and the deer in the headlights expression quickly transforms in the twinkle of an eye. The small crowd of parents cheer as they wait their children's turn, and Anna has all but forgotten the fact that she is sitting on the lap of a white-bearded stranger.
One click of a button and a flash of an umbrella, and the moment is captured. "Did we get it?", I ask. The photographer smiles and I breathe a sigh of relief. Kieran eagerly chooses his candy cane and we walk back down the stairs. "Bye, Santa!", Anna shouts. My picture is printed and I can't believe my eyes.
Pure magic, I do believe.
After seeing Santa, I was even so lucky as to capture a few pictures before we left.
As we strolled away, Anna topped off the evening with her her best rendition of Mickey Saves Santa. "Santa, Santa, Ho! Ho! Ho!", she shouted with joy. She was very proud of her picture with her brother and Santa, and I'm a very proud parent who will continue to take my sweet children to see the magic and spirit that only Christmas can bring, for as many years as I can.