"Uh, Bridget?" [That's me, for all of you who thought my real name was Phoenix.]
"That was my friend, Sean - you remember him... the teacher over at the Catholic school?"
"He needs me to do a favor.... tonight.... uh, right now?"
Okaayyy.... what kind of favor?
"Well, it turns out they have some sort of Christmas Party thing at the school and Santa comes and delivers gifts to the kids and stuff except the guy that was supposed to be Santa just called and said he can't make it because of the roads and so since Sean knew I lived just a few blocks away he asked if I'd be willing to play the part of Santa. Do you think I should do it? He said you and the girls can come with."
Let me get this straight. Some teacher at a private Catholic school wants you to dress up like Santa Claus and interact with young children under a false identity?
"He said they have the costume there."
Hell, yes, you should do it! I'm not missing this for the world! Grab your coats, kids - we're about to witness something spectacular!
And so we all piled into the truck and carefully made our way the six blocks over to the big church on the corner.
Remember, you can't promise things like a new baby sister or a puppy - parents get pissed at that stuff. Hey, wait, do Catholics even believe in Santa Claus? Shouldn't they have asked you to dress up like a Shepherd? Or Joseph? Even a gift giving angel makes more sense than a Santa. Also, you have to stay in character the whole time... even when you talk to another adult, or a teacher, or me. You never know when kids are listening - they're sneaky like that. You have to use the Santa voice the whole time. Do you even *have* a Santa voice? You should practice. Are you going to have to lead a prayer as Santa? Do you even know how to pray? Is Santa even Catholic?
And then Big V was whisked away to a back classroom at the end of a dark hall while the girls and I were escorted into the Lunch/Gym/Basketball Court/We Only Have One Big Space In This Entire School So This Is Where We Party At room. And it was filled to the brim with kids. Lots of them. Hyped up on sugar. Lots of it.
"Hey, Ma." My littlest leaned towards me. "Does Big V even know how to be a Santa?"
I don't know, honey. But we're about to find out....
And as if on cue, jingle bells began to chime in the distance.
The teacher gathered the attention of the children and their parents, "Shhh.... do you hear what I hear?"
And just like that way too many children were making way too much noise and jumping up and down.
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" In walked Big Santa V, decked out from head to toe, and he looked, well, like Santa.
"Hello, boys and girls! Have you been good?!"
Again with the screaming.
My oldest leaned towards me from the other side, "he looks... good?" Trust me. I was in as much shock as she was. He did look good. And he sounded good. And, hey, maybe he could pull this off. Look at all those smiling faces....
And just then the teacher announced that it would be piñata time ... because apparently Catholic Santa's are known for busting candy out of papier-mâché containers shaped like Sponge Bob Square Pants. Who knew?
So all the excited kids formed a wide circle around the surprise piñata which was being hung from 40-year old ceiling tile, which was probably dropping toxic asbestos on to the heads of the innocents, but no one seemed to mind. Not even the parents, who busied themselves with their video cameras because you can't miss an opportunity to record the destruction of artwork with a stick for the sole purpose of immediate sugar gratification.
Then, into the center of the circle strutted Santa. Oh, yes. There was a strut. Because, you see, Big V is a very athletically competitive person. And in his mind, he had a baseball bat and he was walking up to home plate ready to score the winning run.
Until the day I die, I will never fully understand why Big Santa V chose the following words... as he strutted around the children, twirling that stick:
"Who wants to see me WHACK IT?! Who wants to see Santa WHACK IT?!"
And - my personal favorite - as he pointed his big stick to some unsuspecting 5 year old boy: "You! Do YOU wanna see Santa WHACK IT?! Do you wanna see Santa WHACK IT HARD?!"
And that would be the one and only time Big V was ever asked to portray Santa Claus at the local Catholic School.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a most Joyous Hanukkah
to you and yours!