I was today, for the first time ever, a Santa Claus. I suppose the timing is right--having gone old and gray, and self-sufficiently jolly (i.e. without having to be under the influence).
Who doesn't balk at the idea of being Santa? Of course I balked, made feeble excuses, voted in favor of anyone and everyone else, insisted that they would surely make better Santas. But to no avail. Anyone and everyone had already had his turn, and so balked with equal energy, though had also the justification of duty already done to fall back on.
I was therefore escorted upstairs by several female elves and deposited into my costume--the whole nine yards, for these folks were serious about Santa Claus--the red suit, the white wig and beard, the boots and the hat. A cumbersome bag of gifts was affixed to my back and I was told to say Ho, ho, ho--and to say it not that way, but the right way. I was told I must be louder. Much, much louder.
Who is equal to Santa Claus? Who can duplicate his joy? We find ourselves called upon, summoned moreover for the express sake of the children, bundled moreover into such a merry and inescapable straitjacket, that we have at last no other choice but to simply do our best.
Ho, ho, ho, ho--Now all you children sit down and shut yer yaps--Santa has gifts for each and all.
And so on.
Wonderfully, some of these children (the smaller ones naturally) actually believed me to be St. Nick. One dashed forth to hug me (and would not let go). Another started to cry. Still another froze in place, able to move nothing, no part of her person, but for her eyes, and those in the m9st careful sort of watchfulness, as if I must at any moment either give her all her heart's desire or suddenly explode into blinding light and smoke, shooting up through the roof while I was at it.
There were many children. Countless children, perhaps. And there were many gifts. And, truth be known, I soon found myself somehow believing that I had in fact brought each gift, specially intended for each individual child--and had come a long way to boot, through the wind and cold and the driving snow.
On Dasher, on Dancer . . .
Well, it wasn't so bad. As it turned out, it wasn't so bad at all.
Just don't ask me to do it next year.