Eight or nine years ago, Kris and I took a Saturday around Christmas to drive all over creation playing Santa, delivering goodies to our friends. We’ve harbored fond memories of that trip, but never made the time to repeat it until now.
On Friday, Mr. and Mrs. Claus boarded the sleigh — Mrs. Claus’ sleigh because Mr. Claus still has no heat in his — and delivered presents to good boys and girls down near Canby and Woodburn. We got to chat with Kara, Kim, Kristin, and Steve and Mary. On Saturday, the industrious couple made a run to Newberg, Beaverton, and various parts of Portland.
“We should do this every year,” I said to Mrs. Claus when we had finished. “I like spending the hour or so chatting with each family, seeing them in their environment without a lot of stress all around. And all the kids seem to like it, too.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Claus said. “It’s fun.”
Because we were too lazy to drag our sleigh all the way to McMinnville, Michael and Laura and Ethan and Sophia agreed to meet us halfway. They joined us at a Chinese restaurant in Newberg. We had a slow, relaxed lunch during which the children charmed us (as they always do). Ethan is six and Sophia is four. They are both very verbal and overflowing with ideas. Ethan gave us updates on his nature museum and bug zoo. His fund-raising drive is going well, and he hopes to have the museum built and opened by summer.
Near the end of our meal, Kris asked Ethan, “What do you know about Santa?”
Ethan fixed her with a serious gaze and said, “Here are some facts about Santa.” Fortunately, I had my notebook open and ready to scribble. Most of what you read below is verbatim from Ethan’s mouth.
“Here are some facts about Santa,” Ethan said. “One, he has super powers. Three, he —”
“You forgot number two,” the adults corrected.
“Two, he has jingle bells. Three, he has a sleigh. Four, he has a magic sleigh. Five, he has magic reindeer.”
“What about his home life?” Kris asked. “Does Santa live with anyone?”
“He has Mrs. Claus, and he has some elves,” Ethan said.
“Do they have jobs?” asked Kris.
Ethan nodded. “The elves have lots of jobs. One, they have to be disguised in public. Let’s say I was bad. The elves — who could be disguised as anything — would see and would tell Santa.”
“Two,” Ethan continued (he likes lists), “they have to find out what kind of toy you like. Three, they make the toys. They invent the toys. Four, the elves guard the sleigh — there are a couple of elves on board. Five, they help Santa with The List.”
“Is there on-board navigation?” asked Michael, Ethan’s father. “Like GPS?”
“Sort of,” Ethan said. “He has an air map.” He spent a couple minutes describing how the air map worked before Kris steered him back to the original topic of conversation.
“What does Mrs. Claus do?” she asked.
“Well, Mrs. Claus has to make dinner,” Ethan said. “Sometimes they go out. How do they go out without people knowing they’re Santa? They dress up like just regular people. But pretty much Mrs. Claus does clothes and stuff. Sometimes she gets to relax. Mostly when Santa is gone.”
“Is Santa really fat?” asked his mother, Laura.
“No, he’s not. He’s really skinny,” Ethan said. And here my notes end. He gave us more information on Santa, but they were all minor compared to the enumerated lists he’d shared before.
I’ve often noted to Kris how different friends play different roles in our lives. Some are for relaxing. Some are for exploring new things. And some make me think in ways that are different from normal. The same is true with children. I have to admit, I find it exhilarating to interact with kids — especially young kids — who seem to have unbounded imaginations. Ethan and Sophia are two of those.