December 24th, 2008

Christmases past

When I was growing up in the Los Angeles suburb Arcadia, Christmas was a big deal every year. As much as my mom loved to bake cookies and decorate and wrap presents, though, I suspect her real favorite annual Christmas activity was the trip to Henshaw's. Henshaw's was Arcadia's one real department store (I think it finally closed its venerable doors a few years ago), and every year they set aside a corner of the store for visits with Santa, complete with photos available for purchase. My mom and my Aunt Madge (who wasn't a blood relative, but was the next-door neighbor who became a second mom) put a great deal of thought into this visit - I had to have just the right dress, new shiny patent leather shoes, the whole nine yards. They'd finally pick the day, we'd stand in line with all the other little San Gabriel Valley princesses, and I'd get my moment on the Big Guy's knee.

As for me, I always viewed this event with a mix of excitement and fear. Yes, fear. Adults can look at Santa and smile, but look at him from the perspective of a small child being forced to sit on his lap - he's huge, he's old, he's covered in a fur suit, and he's laughing at you. Fortunately, he's also magical and will give you whatever you want, so that outweighs the big guy in red and guffawing stuff.

So, whether you think of Santa with fondness or dread (or my own mix), I hope you have a pleasant time watching for him tonight.