An Interview with Santa.
Stomping the snow from her boots, Kristy greeted the smiling man in the doorway. "I'm sorry I'm late. The roads are snowy and there are icy patches. My car was low on gas. I almost forgot my tape recorder. I'm so sorry. I know you are a busy person. I don't want to waste your time. I hope . . ."
"It's okay, Kristy. I have time. There's always time." Santa smiled broadly at her.
"That's so nice of you to say, but there is never enough time. Especially for you. This must be your busy season."
"You forget who you are talking to. I'm the guy that gets around the world in 24 hours and stops at all the houses. Now . . . can I get you a cookie and some hot chocolate? I was just about to have some for myself."
"Oh, I used to leave cookies out for you. I mean, I would like some," Kristy replied.
"You look cold, Kristy. Sit here in Mrs. Claus's chair and wrap up in her afghan. Mrs. Claus makes delicious cookies. She knows I like chocolate chip . . .the kind you used to leave, I believe. And hot chocolate with whipped cream, shared with a friend, can make time slow down. You know what I mean?" Santa smiled.
"I guess. You really remember that I used to leave you chocolate chip cookies?" Kristy asked.
"Well, sort of. It is a very popular cookie, you know."
"Of course." Kristy sighed and relaxed into the afghan.
"The candy kisses were a nice touch. I do have a sweet tooth and the elves are worse than I! The reindeer chomped down those sugar cubes quick enough, too. Very thoughtful of you. Now you have some questions for me, I believe?"
"Umm. Great cookies! Yes, sir. I do have questions." Kristy struggled to regain her professional self.
"Not 'sir'. You can call me Santa. Most people do. You used to. I hope you don't mind if I whittle a whistle while we talk?"
Kristy sat straighter in her chair and started her tape recorder. "Of course not, Santa. I want to ask you about your career. How did you get started?"
"Hm. What I do is not exactly a career in the current sense. Not something offered as a major at your local college. Santa 101. Advanced Santa," he chuckled. "Not advertised in the classifieds: 'Wanted: Jolly fat guy, willing to wear a red suit, good laugh, hangs out with elves . . ..'"
"How would you label your work?" Kristy asked.
"Some have called me a hoax. That I corrupt the meaning of Christmas. Some commercialize my image. Some have called me a symbol. Some believe I am real. Some believe I am a myth. A legend."
Kristy leaned forward. "What do you say you are?"
"Well, I could claim a little of each of those--except the hoax," Santa replied.
Kristy shifted in her chair. "I'm sorry, but I am confused."
"That would be a sign of the times," Santa sighed.
"How so, Santa?"
Santa stopped whittling. "In this age, people want proof. They want concrete evidence. Everything explainable. Through time, those who have come before me have done those things often attributed to me. Being jolly. Wearing red. Giving gifts. Rewarding children for being good. Very concrete. People often seem satisfied with that." Santa rubbed his chin.
"Aren't you satisfied with that?" Kristy asked.
"Have another cookie, Kristy. Were the gifts you got for Christmas enough for you? That pink bicycle when you were six? The Cabbage Patch doll when you were seven?"
"What do you mean enough? I wanted them. I liked them when I got them," Kristy responded.
"True, but were they enough for you? Did they change your life? Were the gifts what mattered?" Santa persisted.
"They were wishes come true. That's a good thing."
"Yes, it is," Santa agreed.
Kristy continued, "I felt special. Loved."
"Uh huh! Do you remember the little rug you made for your mother?"
"Oh, yes! She liked it very much. I worked very hard on that little loom. It was made of four nails hammered onto a wooden spool."
Santa smiled. "I remember it. I saw it under the tree at your house. It was a highlight of that Christmas Eve for me. Think back. Which gifts do you remember most, the ones you got or the ones you gave?"
"Some of each, but the ones I gave maybe more," Kristy replied.
"You could create a brighter moment for someone else. Shared happiness. You feel that with your own children, too, don't you, Kristy?"
Yes. I see what you mean." Kristy relaxed more into her chair.
"There is something more than the concrete, isn't there? My career is more than what appears to the eye also." Santa resumed whittling.
"I take it that's a sore subject for you," Kristy continued.
"Nobody likes being trivialized," Santa replied.
"No offense, Santa, but the idea of your workshop and little elves doesn't exactly promote a deeper meaning."
"Oh, yes, the elves. In the early days, they were my children, helping me in my workshop. People were quick to make more of that. Over time, my grandchildren came to help too. Now I depend on volunteers. They love the idea of being called elves. But really, it is the work that matters." Santa reached for another cookie.
"What about being called a hoax?" Kristy asked.
"I scare some people. They question the magic."
"The magic, Santa?"
"You know. The flying sleigh. That sort of thing."
"Well, Santa . . ."
"Have another cookie, Kristy."
As she reached for the cookie, Santa added, "It's the reindeer, you know. Special breed. Very focused. More hot chocolate, Dear?"
"No . . . thanks."
"Not everything is concrete, Kristy. You could call it magic. Illusion. Perception vs. reality. For me, I believe in a world of possibilities."
"And the commercialization?"
"On good days, I take it as a compliment. Imitation, a form of flattery. I like that children get to speak their wishes to an adult who seems to really listen to their words and what is behind the words. I wish you could hear what the children say, Kristy. They can be so selfless sometimes. But the commercialization saddens me too. Promoting the least of what I am about. The "ho, ho, ho." The white beard, red suit, jelly belly. Reducing me. Distorting the possibilities."
"Excuse me for saying this, Santa, but isn't that what a myth is?"
"Search your heart, child. Is that all I am to you?"
"But I'm an adult. I don't get toys anymore."
"Oh?" Sant raised his eyebrows.
"Wait a minute, Santa. I didn't mean that exactly. I remember the excitement. The anticipation. The surprise. My family all together. I see it in my children, too."
"That's more like it, Kristy. Your life now keeps you very busy, doesn't it?'
"It isn't easy working, meeting deadlines, having a family, worrying about health care, college funds, retirement, aging parents. There isn't enough time."
"Ah, yes. Time. I don't feel constrained by time. I like to think I live outside of it. Time is there for me; I'm not here for it. A wonderful gift, time. All kinds of uses for it. Possibilities expand. You know that idea that I circle the globe on Christmas Eve? How else could I do that if I felt time's constraint? How would I know what each child wants?"
"Why do I think I am getting more questions than answers from you?" Kristy laughed.
"Does it seem so?" Santa's eyes twinkled. "I'm sorry. You see, in the beginning, I was just a person with a hobby who wanted to bring some joy to others. And I could with simple gifts to children. Those little gifts raised the spirits of the whole family. People were so hungry for hope. What I did spread quickly. Seeing how it raised my spirits, my family wanted to be a part of my dream. Mrs. Claus, that dear, sweet woman, supported me. My children took pleasure in working next to me and spreading happiness. What we got in return was serendipitious: light hearts."
"Light hearts?" Kristy asked.
"That wonderful fullness of feathers expanding on the inside."
"Santa, feathers expanding on the inside?"
""Remember giving your father those slippers you saved your allowance for? Remember the
feeling when you saw him put them on and smile?" Santa asked.
"Warm feathers, unfurling on the inside, and I felt lifted inches off the ground!" Kristy answered.
"You know the Emily Dickinson poem, don't you, Kristy? Nice woman, Emily. She liked peppermints. She was a little different, but so insightful. She was much more than meets the eye. Some called her the myth of Amherst, you know."
"Oh, I know the poem, Santa: 'Hope is the thing with feathers . . .'"
Santa continued the poem: "that perches in the soul . . ."
"I feel it even now in the memory!" an excited Kristy responded.
"Serendipitous! A response that dared to match your wildest dream," Santa explained.
"But, Santa, how could you and your family possibly take on the whole world?"
"Well, we tried for a while. Word spread about us . . . well, me, in particular. Celebrity is a strange beast. And the story expanded. And the expectation. The family and I worked harder and harder, trying to keep up. We didn't want to disappoint anyone.
"There were some late nights when Mrs. Claus and I sat up talking about what we could do. We went through a lot of hot chocolate and cookies on those nights! We wanted to continue, but our light hearts were getting heavy."
"So what did you decide?"
Santa paused in his whittling. "The answers came slowly. We couldn't keep up the pace, but we didn't want to quit. I started taking the sleigh out many nights, watching over people. Seeing how they were doing. Looking for a solution."
"And did you find a solution?" Kristy asked.
"In a way, yes," Santa answered.
"Santa, please. Tell me."
"Too easy, Kristy." Santa began whittling at a steady pace. "I bet you can tell me. Do you give gifts?"
"Does it give you pleasure, even after all the shopping, selecting, carrying, wrapping, and travel?"
"Do you get gifts in return?"
"Just what I discovered, Kristy. I wasn't responsible for the whole world."
"You lost me again, Santa. How did you resolve the growing demand for Santa's gifts?"
"It wasn't about the toys. Not about the ties. Not the slippers, robes, or jewelry. It wasn't the wrapping paper and bows. That wasn't what people needed from me."
"So you stopped making things in your workshop. You sent away the elves, uh, volunteers. You unhitched the reindeer. You hung up the red suit."
"Of course not! Those are part of what I do. Though I'm glad you still have your sense of humor!" Santa smiled broadly at Kristy.
"Okay. I thought I was beginning to understand," Kristy said as she reached for another cookie.
"You are, my dear, you are."
"You're sure about that?"
"As sure as the twinkle in my eye!"
"You have such faith in me, Santa."
"Why, yes I do, Kristy. Once again, you figured it out."
"What I learned is that most people don't need the actual gift. What people need is inspiration. Someone, some faith, that opens up the possibilities of the power of giving. Once planted, inspiration blossoms in each heart. Just read in your own newspaper about all of the charitable acts done in this season."
"And your Christmas Eve journey?" Kristy asked.
"You see, when word spread about what I did, people did not want to lose the joy those first gifts created. People loved each other and didn't want to risk the possibility that I might be a mere man. They took over the work, so children wouldn't be disappointed. It didn't matter to them that I got the credit. Anonymity can liberate the spirit. The story fed the imaginations of the children. The adults enhanced the story for the pure fun of it. That warm flutter in their hearts was reward enough. What they did need from me is the inspiration. Of course, I make sure I am sighted on Christmas Eve.
"People are convinced by their own inner child that they see me everywhere. There are satellite sightings reported on the news. Parents sometimes go to great lengths to ring sleigh bells outside their children's windows. Some children believe they hear the reindeer pawing on the roof or spot an elf in the shadow. It isn't about a hoax. it is about love. Compassion. Delight. Surprise. Thre is a ripple effect. One person touches another and so on."
"So mission accomplished. you are a success. Does this mean you plan to retire?" Kristy asked.
"Oh, no, Kristy. I'm still needed to make some stops. The work of the world lies heavy on the shoulders of people they need to be reminded that hope survives. That they are not alone, nor are they powerless. They need to reflect on faith and meaning. That the child inside needs to be nourished too. It's about living in the moment. Surely you have found those crystal clear moments when the rush of the holidays stops and well-being spreads through you . . ."
"Time stands still: I am at peace, and, I am filled with gratitude!" Kristy added.
""That's what it is like to be Santa Claus, Kristy. I want those moments to spread throughout the year for everyone."
"Like in the Dickinson poem: 'And sings the tune without words--And never stops at all.' Thanks so much for the interview, Santa. I have to tell you, I want your job."
"But isn't that the beauty of it, Kristy. You already have it! Here. Take this whistle--a gift."
"Oh it's a little bird whistle."
"Call it a reminder for those tough days of yours. 'And sweetest in the gale is heard; And sore must be the storm, That could abash the little bird, that kept so many warm.'" Santa smiled as he finished the Dickinson poem.
"Hope. Of course, Santa! I'll treasure it always. Thanks, Santa. Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas, Kristy. Wish the same to your sister, Jill, for me.