Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thanks for the Memories, Santa

The children were nestled all snug in their beds. The lights were twinkling and the trees were decorated to the hilt with everything sparkly. Early morning folks huddled around their coffees in….the food court of the mall. My friend calls this time of year ‘the craze fest we North Americans call Christmas,’ and I suspect those early morning coffee drinkers were savouring some peace before it started that day.

I was waiting for the stores to open, and as I found myself also savouring the moment of peace and tranquility, I realized a shift in my own household’s Christmas activities. Where I used to be waiting for my kids to go to sleep in order to buy and wrap presents, now I get out while they sleep-in (what a foreign concept to me).

As I rounded the corner and dodged a few vigorous mall-walkers making their rounds, I came upon something brimming with memories – and somewhat now foreign to me.

Santa’s photo booth.

True, Christmas is not just one day of Santa, presents, lights, and stale-dated eggnog - it’s a season. And even though memories are created year-round, for someone like me who has kids created memories are at their peak at this time of year.

And Santa’s photo booth starts many of them.

My memories blur between my own Santa visits as a kid, to those of watching my sisters having a meltdown at the first sight of the big guy, to those of my own children crying hysterically. Then there were the line-ups, the other frazzled mothers, and the waiting, excitement and fear all rolled into one. But they are all cherished memories.

Our Santa visiting days are over, as I knew they eventually would be. My wee lads are as tall, if not taller, than me and they live in fear that I will MAKE them ‘go see Santa.’ Yes, I have the power to MAKE them do whatever I want – but I am nice and won’t embarrass them. Maybe in a few years when those embarrassed-to-be-seen-with-family days are gone, I might be able to convince them to go for a picture with Santa. But eventually their own Santa-visiting time will come ‘round - with their own kids. I hope they invite me to come along.

As I looked around the empty Santa booth, I took in the camera and flash, the chair, the candy canes waiting for sticky hands to hold them, and the mail box. Countless letters have been penned and responded to in my house, and they are tucked safely away – just like my memories.

The last two Christmases had me sadly realizing those times were fading away. But this particular day where I had the whole place to myself, it gave me time to reflect (without the mall muzak system blaring). So what if the memories are not always exactly the same as last year, or the year before, or the year before that? All memories are special, and as I approach a new phase in my life with my ever-growing kids, new memories will always be created – and always cherished.

It was bittersweet standing there in the (near) empty mall, the Santa booth empty and waiting for the next generation. But it’s time to move on and create new memories while holding on to the ones I so fortunately have.

I am one lucky girl. Thanks for the memories, Santa.

(Author’s note - Three days after I wrote this, my secret wish came true. I guess Santa must have read this and cast a spell over my kids, as I now have a Santa photo featuring both kids. It was an unexpected surprise when we stumbled upon him ‘posing’ in an inconspicuous place – somewhere other than the mall. I won’t post the photo, as they would never let me live it down. Thanks again, Santa.)

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