Every year we swear we are going to see Santa early, beat the crowds. Every year we see Santa on December 23 or 24 and every year, we wait and wait. The line was overflowing with red bows and little boys in over-sized sport coats. It was filled with children bursting with excitement and adults eager for the line to move. The parents flung out ipads, smart phones, coloring books and of course, food, to keep the little ones occupied as the line crawled at a snail’s pace. As we waited, we talked about what each of the kids wanted to ask for from Santa: a drum set for Sal, a spiderman web shooter for Milo, a peek-a-boo baby for Lucy but when it was Gino’s turn, he couldn’t contain his laughter. When he caught his breath, he told us he was going to kiss Santa on the lips before he asked him for a pottery wheel. For many obvious reasons, we recommended against a lip-to-lip kiss (every time the boys see people kiss lip-to-lip, the giggling kicks in) so then everyone agreed to just shake Santa’s hand.
The line started to make a turn and we got within the sight line of the white bearded man. The kids’ energy levels bumped up and they watched every move he was making. And so was I. I mean, he is Santa, after all. The boy in line directly in front of us sat on Santa’s lap. He was beaming. He was talking to Santa and I saw Santa nod yes. Great, he’s going to get what he wants and now he should pop off Santa’s lap so I can get my brood on and out. Instead, however, I realized that what Santa agreed to was sharing chocolate chip cookies with this boy. This had to be a joke. The child right before us has to be the one to ask for a cookie date with Santa?
As Santa eats, not one, but three cookies, his stark white gloves became tainted with milk chocolate smudges and his significant white beard was catching every crumb that didn’t stick in his mouth. And as he shared this very sweet moment with that little boy, I began to feel nervous. Should I say something? What if he thought Lucy was really cute and grabbed her cheeks with those now milk-filled gloves? What if Gino went in for that kiss thinking he could get a laugh out of his brothers? I felt like I couldn’t judge the risk quickly enough, we were almost up. I leaned over to the girl in charge and I said to her, “Um, hi. I know this may seem like a strange request to you but my children have life-threatening food allergies to wheat, egg and milk and Santa just ate those cookies and…” She interrupted me. Oh no, I thought, I asked the wrong person and I thought for sure she and Santa were going to be annoyed with me. Instead, it was quite the contrary, she got it. She told me that she has peanut allergy and that she was going to fix this. Now I was the one who wanted to kiss someone on the lips!
She walked over to Santa and he nodded. He took off his gloves and rinsed his hands with water from a little water bottle he had next to his giant chair. He looked over at me and winked as he beckoned us toward him. I thanked him as we approached and he just couldn’t have been more considerate. He took a lot of time with us and asked me who had the food allergies. He was careful but loving and inclusive. The boys shook his bare hand and asked Santa for the gifts that they wanted the most. Maybe the risk was low, I don’t know, I just know that this Santa without gloves felt a lot less risky. The kids got their picture taken with Santa and they each picked out a stuffed bear or penguin. They were delighted and I was relieved. Relieved to finally be out of the line, relieved that no one was angry with me for trying to keep my children safe the only way I know how and relieved that Santa losing his traditional white gloves didn’t take away any of his mystery.
As the kids walked away, I stayed back to thank Santa for his kindness and care. We spoke about food allergies and he told me about a little girl earlier in the day who was very ill but was so happy when she got to sit with him. He told me that it can be pretty emotional being Santa some days. I looked at him intently as we spoke, he drew me in. His moustache and beard were full and real and gleaming white. His belly moved as he spoke. His blue eyes were twinkling and abundant with compassion. And for a few moments, I thought, just maybe, he really was Santa.
I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday. Please remember to share this blog with your friends. The more we can educate, the better! And if you haven’t joined for updates, please do. (Right side of site.) Thank you all for reading!