The latest report from Norad this morning, reports Santa on a low flying pattern over the skies of Bangkok, Thailand. Meanwhile miles away,on the other side of the world: London,Ontario, the malls are crowded with some jolly and some not jolly shoppers. As, children and their parents form long lines around Santa's kiosk, the joy, excitement and apprehension on some of the children makes me smile as my mind rushes back to memories of my early encounters with this fellow. Standing in line, there is a young kid, his face smiles nervously, his knuckles start to turn white as the grip on his mom's hand gets tighter; it's now his turn, and though he has been dreaming about this moment the fear of this strange man is taking over. His eyes begin to well up with tears, his smiling face now gripped with fear as his mom pushes him a few steps forward. Slowly he approaches but as Santa reaches to pick him up, he lets out a loud scream filled with terror and runs back to the safety of his mother's arms.
Growing up in a small town nested within a volcanic mountain range, life was challenging for a family of 6 siblings. There was little time for visits to malls, life was simple but full of joy and we had all we needed. Santa was just a strange tradition from a distant culture. My parents were teachers and caretakers at an orphanage and as well as looking after our family at times there were as many as 15 other children . The orphanage sprawled out over many acres of farm land, woods, streams and the tropical raincloud mountains. There were as many as 15 large wooden houses that served as living quarters for other families and the children. All together, it was a large operation supported by organizations such as churches, Lion's clubs etc.
Each Christmas Day many volunteers would gather at the "Home" as it was called to bring cheer to the children living there. Many nights, our dreams were filled with this big day when we would get to meet this odd looking person called Santa, and when it arrived we were beyond excited. The main house in the compound had a large dining area where the kids had their daily meals. It was built in the early 40's and was constructed of wood with many vintage paneled windows placed just above the ground. All the kids would gather in this large room, waiting with anticipation for the man's appearance. As soon as the lady on the piano would start playing "Here comes Santa Claus" we knew that the moment had arrived, a distant bell would start ringing outside, getting louder as the anticipation grew within the gathering. We were sitting on the floor and from our vintage point at first all we could see were red boots walking past the many windows, suddenly he would stop and crouch down as he entered the room through a window that had been left open. At this point, my heart would go racing at the sight of this large foreign man clad in a red outfit, large gut, white long bear and wearing rimmed glasses. With great difficulty, he would climb down from the window ringing that loud bell and settled down by the tree. One by one, names were called, and with great apprehension, I waited until it was my turn where we had to go up to see him all by ourselves. After some hesitation, when the desire for that toy was too strong to resist, I would slowly approached this large looming creature with tears of fear rolling rolling down my cheeks. I would extend my clenched fists, grab my present and then run back as fast as I could to my spot.
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!