A One Honda Open Sleigh
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, as I wasn’t there. I was doing one of those things where I agreed to help a friend, for good reasons, but then found myself wondering why I was going through with it. The Christmas season means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. If you, like I, are a portly and jolly person, then it means that sometimes people are asking you to be a wayward Santa on demand.
“I have a big ask of you, can you call me?” the text message said, the one that showed up on my phone two weeks before Christmas. It was Mark, an old friend of mine who was just about tired of jokes over his name and its correlation to a certain character from a certain bad movie. “Hey! What are you doing on Christmas Eve?” Mark asked. “Same old, same old,” I said. “I’m going to spend time with the family, go home, drink egg nog, and get way too emotional about my most recent divorce.”
“Sounds...festive!” Mark said, trying to hide the tone in his voice that said: “That’s so very very sad!” Mark proposed an idea to me. An alternate plan for my December 24th. “I want the kids to spy Santa in the field behind my grandmother’s house. What would you think of being up to the task? I’ll get you a suit and beard, but I want them to get just the slightest glimpse of you with your goodie bag walking around on Christmas Eve.”
I took a beat, a pause to mull it over, and to see what the forecast might be for that night. Mark was concerned with the silence on my end. “You...you there?” he said cautiously. “Yeah, I’m here. I’m just…” the following pause was actually only that. A pause. A short breath between words, but it felt like an hour as I mulled it all over in my head. But who am I to let children down on Christmas? Who am I to maybe take away the magic of life from people who are already full of magic? The magic that a world that is all too dark and annoying needs more of?
The “I’m just...” was followed by “...thinking about what time I could break away from the family gathering to do this for you!” Mark was elated, an overwhelming excitement-filled each and every breath of the words that came from him for the rest of that conversation. He and I would meet for lunch later that week and hatch it all out.
A week passed before we were able to meet for Lunch. As soon as the menus were taken away, Mark placed a three-ring binder on the table. It was full of plans, details, maps to his grandmother’s house, and—believe it or not—storyboards of how he’d like it to look from the view of the back porch window. Either Mark had had an epic brainstorming session in the week since our phone call, or, what was more likely, he had been planning this for months and only most recently got up the courage to ask me. Alternatively, many people could have turned him down and I was the first who said yes.
“OK. So. I want this to happen just as the kids are going to bed, almost as if Santa knows exactly they are on their way to bed. So I figure if you can be in the field around 8:50, that would be perfect! We can get them up to bed around 8:53, just start walking your way across the field, lengthwise to the house, at 8:54. That should give the right amount of time for perfect staging.” It was at this point that I wondered what all I was getting into and that Mark should apply for a job at Barter Theatre.
Mark would bring my suit, beard, and goodie bag—stuffed with dummy gifts—over on the 23rd, we would have till the 28th to get it back to the costume shop. Mark would take care of all that, coming over to pick it up on the 27th. His grandmother’s house was out in the country, you’d have to take one of those lonely back roads to get to it, it didn’t look too bad, only about 20 minutes from my house. If I left my family gathering at 8:00, I would have time to run home, change, and get in place in the field. I had always wondered what it must be like to be the actual Santa, to pull off all these amazing feats in one night. Now here I was, charged with a minor feat, and wondering how I could be a jolly old Elf tramping across a field on a dark and cold night.
As planned, on the 23rd Mark came by with the suit, beard, and goodie bag. I picked up the bag and was shocked to see that it felt hefty “I thought you said you were putting dummy gifts in it?” I asked. “Well, yeah. But I wanted to go for realism so there are some weights I put in some of the boxes. Just a few pounds!” Again, Mark should apply to work for Barter. We planed to communicate via text messages, so I had my phone very close to hand on Christmas Eve.
I felt like I was in a 1960s heist film. I wondered if I should walk around town singing “E-O-Eleven.” We didn’t have synchronized watches, but we had synchronized iPhones. With a sense of the theme to “Mission: Impossible” in my head, at eight o’clock on the dot, I left my family gathering at went home. I arrived home at 8:12. At 8:15 I fed my cat, then went into the bedroom to get changed. I loaded the bag into the back of my Honda, a red SUV, which was extremely appropriate, and I left my house at 8:23. With a call time of 8:50, things were going right on schedule.
Driving on the lonely, country road, was…well...lonely. The road seemed to be nothing but hills and curves, till I finally arrived at the huge property which the house sat on. Mark had told me to pull along the side of an old barn, about a third of a mile away from the house. Everyone knew that I was coming, so I didn’t have to worry about sounding any alarms. I parked and turn my car off, looking at my watch it was 8:44. Given the five minute walk to the field, and the time it would take to get my gear together, it looked like things were going exactly as planned.
I got out of my car, grabbed my bag, and began my walk. I looked up at the sky. The forecast had said it was to be a midnight clear, but in fact, it looked rather cloudy. It was cold, but it wasn’t intolerable as I had layered up heavily under my costume. I was to start at the first fence post that lined the back of the yard. It was a chain-link fence, so plenty of visibility for all concerned. I messaged Mark, my phone said it was 8:49, so I waited a few seconds till 8:50 and messaged him “Ho Ho is here-o.” Mark sent back a smiley face.
As I waited there, I suddenly felt something on my skin. A drop of something cold, and then another drop of something wet. Rain. It was starting to rain, ever so. Not a downpour, not a storm, but just enough rain to soak a moron dressed up as Santa Claus in a field holding a weighted bag out in the country on a cold night. My layers were now useless, holding in the wet and drawing the cold er’e near’r. My phone vibrated. “Hope that didn’t get you too bad! Count to 30 then start walking.”
As I began my trek across the field, my feet began to squish as my boots walked into the soft ground. I began to silently sing to myself “You better watch out, you better not cry, Santa Claus is Squishing to Town.” I kept looking down and forward, but out the corner of my right eye I could barely make out commotion happening in the house. I saw the back porch light go on, I saw the blur of tiny shadows jumping up and down. The porch light went off, and I reached the end of the field. My phone vibrated again, “All clear! Great job! They’re so excited!!! Merry Christmas!”
Santa Andy hopped back into his Honda drawn sleigh and headed for home. Getting there, to a house that was empty and quiet, I tossed the costume off, filled up a tub with water as hot as I could stand it, and climbed in for a long Winter’s nap. When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my tub to see what was the matter. Rushing outside in my PJs, coat, and robe, there he was. The real St. Nick was up on the rooftop, clicking and all.
“Hey, Santa!” I exclaimed, and the old man turned and fell with abound. Santa had fallen off my roof, and he didn’t seem all too well. Anyways, the point of the matter is I’ve been Santa Claused now and soon I’ll be in all y’all’s homes and moving to the North Pole. So do me a favor, no cookies with nuts in them, please? I see you when you’re sleeping you know. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.