Santa Claus came to town, and this time we didn’t frighten the children.

Riverside Mission Inn
Some time after Christmas I’ll share the story behind this photo. We enjoyed a family celebration–a pre-birthday gathering for Aimee, at the Mission Inn in Riverside and the annual Festival of Lights. This old hotel has several historical connections I’ll be eager to talk about.
Tonight, my mind is busy.
Forty years ago, in the wee hours of the 24th, I walked into the hospital ready to deliver my first child. Someone at an admitting desk took one look at me and said, “The manger’s at the end of the hall.” A couple of days later Aimee came home tucked into a Christmas stocking, the best Christmas gift I ever received.
Tomorrow we’ll celebrate her birthday, but tonight we enjoyed our annual visit from Santa. 
It’s a delightful annual tradition.
But there was one year…

Our fire department has hosted this annual tradition since I was a child. We typically have advance notice of the night he will be traveling in our sector of the city, but on those nights all we know is to be ready somewhere between 6:30 and 9:30 pm.

On clear nights the sounds of amplified ho-ho-ho accompanied by intermittent wailing from one or more of the accompanying emergency vehicles let’s you know Santa is on his appointed rounds, but the trick is figuring out when he is coming down OUR street.

Many false runs into the cold night air typically indicate that the adults in the household are really just big kids themselves when it comes to Santa!

 One year, while eating our dinner, we almost missed the whole thing. Santa was a little earlier and all of a sudden we realized the sounds were mighty close! We abruptly grabbed the girls from the dinner table and ran outside.  Gratefully, the sights and sounds of an exuberant candy-throwing Santa seemed to offset the trauma of being whisked from the table with little or no warning.

But nothing compares with one year–the year we acted more like children than the children!

Sophia, barely two, was in the bath. Judging by the neighborhood sounds we thought we had plenty of time. But I went to the door and suddenly discovered that Santa was making a fast approach.  I took off running toward the bathroom quite literally screeching “Santa, Santa is coming!” 

Grab that poor wet baby and let’s get moving! With ludicrous antics mirroring TV’s Modern Family our behaviors took on a frantic display that should be reserved only for emergencies—or the Apocalypse!

Sophia was quickly bundled and rushed outdoors, someone else grabbed Karina, and somehow we clumsily  made it to the curb just in time to greet Santa.

It wasn’t until we came back inside that we looked at one another in disbelief! What had come over us? Had we lost our minds?

Well, yes, I think we sort of did just that.  Since that time we make yearly plans to greet Santa as he comes down our street, but we try to hold our enthusiasm in check so as not to scare the children.

Tonight’s Santa appearance was a success. The children were prepared and no one was traumatized. Only Zena  was a bit confused. The noise from the accompanying Christmas light bejeweled police cars and fire engines was a bit confusing–she howled her enthusiasm.

As I now say goodnight I also send my warmest wishes for Christmas and the remaining holiday season. Whether you celebrate in grand style or quietly withdraw into the stillness, it is my hope that however you observe this time of year you will be well and at peace.

And please know that I count you as friends, thanking you for all that you have shared with me this year. I value each encounter.

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! “- Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836