Tuesday, December 22, 2009

You’d Better Watch Out!

Santa has some employee problems in this bad economy. They are trying to get as much done with far fewer people.
by Charlie Leck

Christmas is right around the corner at our house. The master of the domain finds himself singing little Christmas ditties as he wanders around the house, checking the tree three or four times during the day, adjusting an ornament here or there and exchanging a green light with a red one in another spot to improve the balance of the color. He notices that not only are the stockings all hung with care, but that some of them are already gushing full of gifts. Santa has obviously made a preliminary stop. The grandchildren’s stockings are already over flowing with toys and goodies.

The rumor is two-fold. (1) Santa doesn’t move around as well as he once did and all the spreading of joy and generosity can’t be left to just one evening any more. He needs to get a jump start on all his visits and the filling of so many stockings. (2) The number of Santa’s helpers in down quite seriously since a year ago. The economy has taken its toll and there is just far more for each helper to now do to make up for the shortage of employees.

I got a hint of all this just this morning when I noticed the lid had been left off the cookie jar in our kitchen. It was perfectly clear that someone had been looking for a treat. Then I saw that a carton of eggnog that I had not planned to open until Christmas Eve had been tampered with and a third of it was missing. Then, in the kitchen sink, there was a large drinking glass with the tell-tale evidence that it had once been filled with the thick, creamy holiday liquid.

Not being anyone’s fool, I went into the living room to look around at my tree; perhaps, to make a few adjustments to an ornament or two. And there, behind the tree, I noticed that a few of the hung stockings had already been filled to the brim. Then, too, there were more gifts beneath the tree than I had put there and the wrapping paper was clearly nothing like any that we keep around the house. Sure enough, when I checked the gift tags, they were from Santa. A dozen or more gifts had been added to our already immense pile.

The older I get, and the less nimble of mind, the more Santa fantasies dance in my head. I can actually see the old fellow wandering around the house, checking on things and making sure all is ready for the big morning. The dog cocks his head and whines a bit. To keep the black lab quiet, Santa flips a few treats over to him. Santa’s legs are bent at the knee in a manner that makes them look far less strong than they were only five or six years ago. His joints crack as he slowly moves around the tree, making important adjustments. Santa’s belly looks much more like a bowl full of jelly than it did when the children were little tikes. His hair and beard are completely white now, without even a trace of gray. He finds the sofa a comfortable place to take a 20 minute nap before he moves on to the next homes in the community. He’s even given up landing his big sleigh and tiny reindeer on the roof. They set down and take off now from the driveway. Santa just ambles in through the front door, struggling a bit with the big bag thrown over his shoulder. When he’s finished with his work for that visit, he leaves the same way he came. That business of going up the chimney is but a mere memory of his youthful days.

I clean up after Santa a bit, rinsing his drinking glass and putting it in the dishwasher. I refluff the sofa to remove the evidence of his little nap. I go outside, in front of the house, and shovel up the little deposits the flying reindeer have left out there.

Santa will need to return. Not all the stockings are yet filled. So, I’ll get the cookie jar filled with his favorites – short bread pieces. I’ll buy a larger jug of eggnog and leave the bottle of brandy out where he can see it (just in case).

The tree at our house looks very comely, indeed. It’s a tranquil sight. Lights are blinking at me and some of the ornaments are sparkling. I sit in my easy chair – the chair I call “Archie Bunker’s chair” – and I survey the Christmas scene. An enormous amount of work has gone into this project. I begin to think about the meaning of it all, but that thought tires me and my head flops back and my eyes close. I drift off to sleep to the sound of sleigh bells moving westward over the hay fields.

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