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Winking at Santa - Is he real or just pretend?

By D. G. Martin
Posted Monday, December 19, 2005

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Santa Claus was a terrifying puzzle for my daughter when she was three. She was afraid of the old man with a beard. She let us know that she did not want him to come close to her room when he came to deliver toys on Christmas Eve.

Now our daughter’s daughter is three. Maggie has inherited her mother’s fear of Santa.

Each year, the Durham Museum of Life and Science sponsors a “Santa train.” Little children and their parents can take a short ride on the museum’s small train “to the North Pole” for a visit with Santa. When the Santa Train pulled up to the North Pole station, we watched as Santa walked down beside the train, coming closer and closer to our car. When Santa greeted the children in the next car and turned toward us, Maggie jumped out of the seat beside her grandmother and me, grabbed her mother, pushed her out of the train, and held on for dear life until Santa had departed.

Even though Maggie had shown her great of fear of Santa, her parents planned a Santa party for her friends and their parents. Because I own a fine Santa outfit and am glad to find any excuse to wear it, they asked me to “play Santa.”

Maggie’s parents thought most of the other children would be glad to see Santa and have their picture taken with him.

But how would we deal with Maggie’s fear?

We did a bad thing.

We told Maggie that the Santa coming to the party at her house would not be the “real Santa” but would be a pretend Santa—her grandfather dressed up like Santa.

She reacted with a puzzled look. Then she asked me, “Will you be wearing a beard? Don’t wear a beard.”

The beard, then, was clearly part of Santa’s problem. Maggie doesn’t like beards.

“But,” I said to her, “if I am going to pretend to be Santa, I have to have a beard, or nobody will think I look like Santa.”

Maggie shook her head.

On the day of the party, I took a box with my Santa costume to my daughter’s home. “Maggie,” I said, “my Santa’s costume is in the box. Can I change in your room?”

“Not now,” she said, looking around for her mom or dad.

“Right, but I am going to take the box up to your room. Want to go with me?”

She followed me to the room. I opened up the box quickly. “Want to look at his coat?”

She reached in the box and pulled out his coat and pants and then his cap.

“Where is his beard?” she asked with her eyes squinting tightly.

I pulled the beard out of his protective bag and held it up.

“Let’s go back downstairs,” Maggie directed.

Later, after the other children and their families had arrived, my daughter signaled that it was time for Santa to make an appearance.

“Maggie, I am going to put on the Santa costume,” I looked at her and smiled.

“Hold me!” she shouted at her dad as she jumped and threw her arms around his neck.

“I won’t come down for a while,” I said to her. “And when I do you’ll know it’s me because I will wink at you, just like this.” I gave her a big wink. “And when I wink, you wink back, okay?”

She eased out of her dad’s arms, stood on the floor, and looked at me without saying a word.

In a few minutes, I came down the stairs in Santa’s outfit, waving to all the children. Some waved back and smiled. Some just stared and took a couple of steps back. Maggie was back in her dad’s arms. From a distance, I waved, and then pulled down the beard to open up my face and I gave her a big long wink.

Then the miracle. She winked back. A big, long, exaggerated wink, with a smile that told me she finally knew that this was really only a pretend Santa.

Later, while she was sitting on my lap for picture taking, I wondered, “Next year, aren’t we going to want to persuade her that Santa is real after all?”


D.G. Martin is the host of UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs on Sundays at 5:00 p.m. This week’s (December 25) guest is Hendersonville’s Ann B. Ross, author of “Miss Julia’s School of Beauty.”

Upcoming NC Bookwatch programs, all at 5pm, Sundays on UNC-TV:
Dec 25 Ann B. Ross Miss Julia’s School of Beauty
Jan 1 Lawrence Earley Looking for Longleaf
Jan 8 Peter Perret A Well Tempered Mind
Jan 15 Timothy Tyson Blood Done Sign My Name

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Winking at Santa - Is he real or just pretend?

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