Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Over Thanksgiving, we visited the family's legendary mountain retreat, Chez Clisby, in Green Valley Lake, California. Some friends came along with their 18-month old beer-retriever and a snowy good time was had by all.
One of the weekend-after-Thanksgiving traditions at little Green Valley Lake is the Holiday potluck held at the club house down by the lake. On Saturday evening, everyone brings a dish to share, Santa visits and the flip is switched on the main tree lights ... Ta-da! There's also caroling, hot chocolate and a silent auction of local goods.
This year, too much dawdling and last-minute cocktail-making made us tardy and we missed Santa's appearance. We were worried about my nephew's disappointment but he took it in stride: "That's okay. I'll see him in Mississippi. He comes there too."
Robbie is at that age where his parents are fiercely protective over his Santa beliefs. I certainly support this effort - it certainly helps keep Christmas that much more magical for the whole family. After all, we all former Santa believers and once that spell is broken, you never get it back.
But later that next day, we all witnessed a scene that quite possibly brought us all back to that lovely, suspended stage of belief.
We were all walking back from Inspiration Point when out of the woods, came an elderly fellow with a long, white beard and a black dog. Mary Ann yelled and pointed, "Robbie, it's SANTA!" Robbie turned and stared at the man and the rest of us just crossed our fingers that the fellow would play along.
He did. And then some.
Mary Ann explained to the man that they had missed him the night before a the town gathering. After some initially risky statements about some Santa gigs he'd had at South Coast Plaza, Mary Ann got him back on track just in time:
"Well, hello Robbie! And what would you like for Christmas this year?"
My nephew's face was completely awestruck. He got out of his wagon, approached the gentleman and stuck out his hand in greeting. What a little man! After a bit of conversation, he said to the man, "Santa, I didn't know you had a dog! I have a black dog too. His name is Joe and ..."
"My dog's name is Rudolph. He turns into a reindeer when I need him to," said Santa.
"REALLY?!?" said Robbie. This would give him a whole new appreciation for Rudolph.
After some picture taking and whatnot, Santa bid us goodbye and wished us all a Merry Christmas and reminding Robbie to leave out milk, cookies and "a carrot for Rudolph." Robbie was completely starstruck, watching him walk away. The old man ambled down the road a ways then let out a booming ... "HO HO HO!'
It was then that the rest of us got chills, like the Christmas Spirit just whooshed right through us. Corny? TOTALLY.
After that, we told Robbie about eight million times how lucky he was to meet Santa on his 'day off' in his 'regular clothes' and 'with no other kids around.' He just kept smiling.
Later that night, as he was falling asleep by the fire, we were talking about the exciting episode again. "You know, at first I didn't really believe that it was really Santa," he said.
"Oh yeah?," I responded. "What convinced you?"
"He knew my name," he said.
The old fellow had picked up on Mary Ann's cue without skipping a beat ...right? Hmmm, when I really think about it, I'm pretty sure Santa knew Robbie's name all along.