Nancy and I are notorious Scrooges. We don’t send Christmas cards, we don’t give each other gifts anymore, we don’t get a Christmas tree. Perhaps there are others out there who are in the same boat as we are. If you are not religious and you don’t have kids, and your parents are long gone, and you don’t have family in the area, there is no reason whatsoever to get all worked up about Christmas.
However, we have had some wonderful Christmases with all the trappings (see North of Andorra, December 16, 2007). There is a Christmas that sticks in my mind and I think of it every Christmas, not to mention almost every time I ever put on the National Park Service uniform.
One year, I was the Seattle Center Santa Claus. More accurately, I was one of the several Seattle Center Santa Clauses.
Nancy was going to school at the University of Washington and I found myself unemployed. She had seen an ad in the paper that said if one were to successfully attend a class on how to be a Santa, one could get a part time job as a Santa. I did attend successfully and was chosen to be one of the Santas at the Seattle Center. The Seattle Center is where they staged the World’s Fair and it’s where the Space Needle still sits. As far as Santa’s go, I had a pretty good gig.
Kids love Santa Claus. If you had four or five actors in costume and portraying, say; Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, God, Albert Einstein and Santa Claus, kids would swarm Santa Claus and ignore the others. And their parents would too.
Youngsters would sit on my lap and respectfully tell me what they wanted for Christmas. When they were finished they would almost always tell me that they loved me. Toddlers, teenagers, grandmas, kids of all ages. Young mothers would sit on my lap and flirt. It was one of the perks of the job. Very rarely, some smart ass teenager would tell me he knew I was an imposter, or tug on my beard. But they didn’t say Santa Claus didn’t exist. One day I decided I could manage to forego the extra pillow padding (I was smaller then). As I was walking to my throne, I heard a teenage kid say with derision, “Look, a skinny Santa”. (I never got a better compliment.) But for the most part, I got plenty of adoration and attention.
After six hours of getting all this love, an elf would escort me down to the dressing room to change into my civilian clothes. All the way to the dressing room, kids would wave, mothers would blow me kisses and teenagers would point and smile. Then, the denouement would occur. I would change clothes and walk out into the Seattle Center, and I was nobody. Walking out of the dressing room was possibly one of the most lonely feelings I ever experienced. Nobody waved, nobody smiled, nobody pointed. I was nobody. I felt invisible.
I often had similar feelings years later in Yellowstone. When I would take off the Park Service uniform in the evening, shower up and go to the Lodge for a beer, for awhile I would feel invisible. Nobody would ask questions, nobody would tell me about the bears they had seen, nobody would ask when Old Faithful was going to erupt.