I’m a fan of Santa and he is a fan of mine.
When Evan was a barely a toddler, I took him to see Santa.
I remember it plain as day. A friend and I went to the local mall and bought Evan a super cute outfit. He was almost 2 years old. The outfit was selected to coordinate with all the Christmas cheer. This would be prominently featured on the never-to-be-sent Christmas card, after all.
I was so excited about the outfit and the picturesque photo to come. The outfit even came with a cream white hat with little polar bear ears. We tore off the tags and changed him in the middle of the mall. I couldn’t wait to have his picture taken with Santa and had big parental dreams that it would become an annual tradition.
Looking back, Evan didn’t quite get the concept of Christmas at that age. He liked the lights. He liked ripping off the Christmas tree ornaments. Evan basically was like a having an ornery cat with all the paper and boxes to play with.
We waited in line with other families awaiting their turn to tell the big guy their Christmas wishes.
We soon found out that’s where the toddler’s love of Christmas stopped.
As I approached Santa’s perch, Evan’s grip around my neck tightened. With every step toward the smiling, bearded stranger, my airway was slowly coming to a close.
The high-pitched screams still echo in my ears. Then I saw stars and either blacked out from the lack of oxygen or from sheer embarrassment. It was my brain trying to protect me from parental trauma.
There was to be no Santa photograph that Christmas. It just wasn’t in the cards. Minutes later, I was treated for acute strangulation in the food court. I wiped the tears away with an Aunt Annie’s pretzel napkin. Then I wiped away Evan’s tears, trying to cease our sobs with a salted pretzel stick as I silently vowed to never return.
On a side note, Evan’s cousin Carla made the brave return to Santa’s lap the following year with resounding success and without fingerprint marks around her throat. I treasure that photograph to this day. It was the only photo I had of Evan with Santa — until this past week.
Fast-forward 11 years later, with a lot of therapy and self-assurance, I again attempted this magical tradition and visited Santa on Thursday night.
Evan, along with our dog Shorty, stopped at Santa’s House on the Public Square to redeem ourselves from our long absence.
Over the years, we sent him letters. We left out cookies and milk. We tossed carrots for the reindeer on the rooftops.
We never stopped believing, but we loved Santa from a distance.
This year, the tears — happy ones — were all mine.
That evening, we had just left from a somber visit with a dear loved one — the first of many, I’m afraid.
Santa must have known. Santa always knows.
Santa was waiting for us and called Evan and Shorty by name.
Santa knows. He’s a Troy Daily News subscriber, after all, because Santa subscribes to all the newspapers around the world. How else would he know who has been allegedly bad or good? I’m sure the elves help him check his list to find out who has been naughty or nice (including yours truly). Santa supports local journalism if only to help with his database of moral decorum.
We made our visit quick. All we asked for was a safe and happy Christmas for all and for his safe travels back to the North Pole.
Before we left, Santa gave me some street cred. Santa said he couldn’t wait to read this column. Evan was impressed Santa was a fan of mine.
“Mom, Santa knows you write for the paper?” asked Evan as we walked back to the car.
“Santa is a fan of mine,” I replied.
And I’m a fan of his.
Melanie Yingst is a reporter for the Troy Daily News. Follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews.