And then we drove over to visit Santa. This was our second time visiting with this particular Santa and after last year, when we waited in line for more than three hours to see the man who has been dubbed, "The Real Santa Claus" ... we thought we'd get there an hour before it opened to beat the crowds. We arrived at 10:30. But what to our wondering eyes should appear, but a line that had begun to form at 7:30 ... as in, three hours earlier. We still had to wait for two hours to visit with him, but it was worth every minute and we will gladly do it again, next year. A tradition has been born!
This man embodies everything to me that is "Santa" and I can easily see why people travel from all over the United States to come sit in his sleigh and visit with him year after year after year. He's been dressing up and playing Father Christmas since he was a 14-year old orphan and he's now 82.
It's a well known fact: John Buckreis has spent a lifetime perfecting his role.
When he came in to the room, jingling his ring of reindeer bells, he summoned William from the 100+ people that had gathered, and he placed his bells around his neck. Then he called all of the children over to a manger, where Santa got down on bended knee, and told the story of Christmas ... Mary and Joseph and the babe in the manger.
He led everyone in song as he belted out, "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Silent Night." Then he went up to his chimney perch and held a 10-minute question and answer session with the children.
What do your elves wear?
(The elves that you see in movies are the product of Hollywood, they don't wear pointy shoes and have pointy ears. Real elves are Santa's helpers and they wear anything and everything. They come from all over the world and they look just like you and me.)
How do reindeers fly?
(He sprinkles them with stardust that comes from shooting stars. It's magic.)
Why is Rudolph's nose red?
(Because he eats a lot of cranberries. They're his favorite food!)
How does he make all of those toys?
(He doesn't make all of the toys, anymore. Now, he has a deal with toy manufacturers around the world. They give him ~10% of all toys made. He also loves Amazon.)
From his chimney perch, he recited "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (from memory, nonetheless) and then he led everyone through another song.
After telling everyone that if they had fussy babies and they just wanted a photo opportunity, please move to the front of the line because it's not fair for anyone (the baby especially) to have to wait. He assumed his position on his vintage sleigh, where he took children - one by one - and read their Christmas lists with them.
And he talked with them. He really talked. He looked them in their eyes and queried them on things like their dogs and cats and favorite subjects in school. People of all ages ... young and old ... climbed in to Santa's sleigh. Many laughed, many had tears in their eyes. All of them were so immensely grateful for this person that has brought so much GOOD and JOY and LOVE and FAITH to their lives, by devoting his existence to sharing and spreading the Spirit of Christmas.
When our children took to the sleigh, William went first. Santa asked him how our dog was doing. (HOW OUR DOG WAS DOING?!) He went on to tell William that last year, when he came down the chimney and was filling stockings, our little dog nipped him on the bottom. So this year, we have to make VERY SURE that we keep him out of the living room. And then he tore off some yellow ribbon and handed it to William and said, "If you can put this little bit of ribbon on the table, I'll leave a dog bone for your pup, Louie." William was flabbergasted.
Up stepped Elizabeth and Santa said to her, "Oh, I know all about you. You are one of the smartest children in your class and I know that you love to read." Our sweet Elizabeth has been struggling so hard in school. We've been working with a number of specialists for the past couple of years and I keep telling her that one day it will all click - I know it will happen. Until then she just needs to be patient with herself. She looked at me with a gleam in her eye and I knew that Santa's comments bolstered her confidence more than anything anyone could have ever said. If Santa said I love to read and am one of the smartest children in my class .... IT MUST BE TRUE!
Carolyn climbed up next and sweetly asked for a guinea pig. Santa told her that she has one of the gentlest, kindest hearts he's every encountered and he knows that she would be a wonderful guinea pig owner. But he wasn't so sure that he'd be able to manage that. He shot me a glance and when I winked at him, he looked back at Carolyn and said, "No guarantees. But I'll see what I can do..."
(I'm So Excited. This might possibly be the most amazing Christmas EVER!)
Henry was the fourth to climb up in to his lap and he looked right in to Santa's eyes and said, "Santa, I love you so much. Thank you for keeping God alive in my heart! Now, um, I want a Red Power Ranger and a real butterfly and also, MOST IMPORTANT, stardust you put on the reindeers so I can FLY! Santa, I want to FLY!!!"
Today, we felt like we were touched by magic. At the conclusion of our visit, Santa gave each child a lollipop and a prayer card with "A Prayer for Children" written on the back. I've never read this before, but loved it, especially the second verse:
"Teach me both what to give and what to withhold; when to reprove and when to forbear; make me gentle, yet firm; considerate and watchful and deliver me equally from the weakness of indulgence and the excess of severity; and grant that both by word and by example, I may be careful to lead them in the ways of wisdom and true piety."
(Wow! Did I need to read that today. And yesterday. And tomorrow, too.)
He also cut a piece of ribbon that he instructed them to hang from the tree, or drape on their bed, or affix to the door or place on the table beneath an apple.
He told them to put their shoes by the fireplace with a potato in them. And leave carrots in their stockings for the reindeer. He gave each one very specific details that they committed to memory.
Thank goodness the children promptly told me all about it, so I could write it down because there was no way I could remember all of those instructions. Especially since my mind is now distracted that I'm 0 for 3 on Henry's wish list. Hopefully, he'll be happy with his Mammoth Skeleton Tent with Caveman PlayMobil set. Sure, flying would be great, but what child doesn't love PlayMobil?!