Saturday, December 17, 2005

600 quarts of santa

Christmas is a mere seven days away, and even with many tasks already accomplished, there is a hefty 'to do' list yet to tackle. Tomorrow holds the last few gift purchases, wrapping the last few gifts, a Costco shopping trip for ingredients to bake cookies, baking cookies, finish writing and laying out the annual newsletter, printing the newsletter and envelopes, writing messages on each newsletter, stuffing and stamping envelopes, and... . Um, gosh, I guess that's it.

Pffft. Yeah. Piece of cake!

Can't spread it out over the weekend because Sunday is booked. We start bright and early with breakfast at our favorite diner. We want to give our regular waitress a Christmas card -- and have a great omelet. Then I have a pedicure (I know, it's rough). From there, off to Sam and Donna's house to watch the Seahawks beat the Titans. Then, to a Christmas party. It'll be 8:00 pm before we get home.

Phew! The holidays are a crazy time. Speaking of crazy (and I mean that in the best possible way), I'd mentioned in my last post that my Dad is one of Santa's best helpers. He started playing Santa in high school in the 1950s and never stopped. In one of my favorite pictures, Dad is dressed as Santa, and a six-year-old me is sitting in his lap. It was taken in his office, in the basement of the police station. I remember the day. The photographer from the newspaper thought it was so funny that this little girl knew her father was Santa Claus.

He had two suits, but my favorite was the antique velvet one with thick white fur trim. His wig and beard were flawless, save the amber evidence of a skinny pipe he smoked between stops. He carried a leather strap with large jingle bells attached it, and used it to announce his arrival. He wore white cotton gloves and black leather boots.

He visited schools, churches, offices, private family parties. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas were a blur of activity. He occasionally recruited one of us to help. I always loved to play elf. We'd approach someone's home in his station wagon and a hundred feet before arriving, he turn off the engine and lights, shift into neutral, and coast into the driveway. I'd make sure that his supply of tiny candy canes was ample, and then load up his bag with wrapped gifts the family left in a garage or porch. Once inside, I'd help him distribute them to crowds of sleepy and enthralled kids.

He would never take money for his visits. His regular groups and families would have a gift for him. Sometimes, it was fruitcake or a bottle of wine. More often, it was some sort of Santa tchotchke. In more than four decades, he literally accumulated a room full of Santa stuff. I can attest to this. Aside from the obvious fact that I grew up in the house where this collection steadily increased over the years, I also boxed up most of it a couple years ago so that the room could be utilized! I lost track of how many 40-quart storage containers the collection required. It was a lot. A few of his favorite items remain in the house. Of those, my favorite is a miniature aluminum biplane assembled completely of limited edition Santa Claus Coca-Cola cans.

When my father retired from his day job, he decided to embrace the Santa lifestyle 24/7. By this I mean, he grew out his hair and beard, and spent his time woodcarving. Despite a thick head of jet black hair (something many men his age would have paid money to have), he dyed it all white. Well, as white as jet black hair would be allow itself to be dyed. It was more of a super-platinum blonde. The Santa gig went on for a couple years after retirement, until his health prevented him from continuing any longer.

Dad still loves his Santaness and revels in the joy of Christmas. He doesn't need to dye his hair and beard anymore, although it's more of a sodium-heavy salt-and-pepper now. His oldest grandson, Andrew (my nephew), is now in possession of the velvet suit and started the Kringle routine last year at age 18.

This month, I've received a forwarded holiday email from several people that reads as follows:

The Four Phases of Life

1. You believe in Santa Claus
2. You don't believe in Santa Claus
3. You are Santa Claus
4. You look like Santa Claus

I told this to my Dad a couple weeks ago while waiting for our table at a restaurant. He laughed. Then he said, "except one thing... I never stopped believing."


The Bird's Staff said...

Wonderful story, contributing to your dad's legacy. My dad was Wes Root and your father was often mentioned throughout our home.

kellycoxsemple said...

And of course, I remember Mr. Root -- a Pinkerton institution! Thanks for stopping by.