For me the 2013 Season began in it's planning stages in 2012 like most. Brainstorming all the things I would add and do to improve my portrayal for the upcoming year's Christmas season. December 26, 2012, I would begin the long process of growing a new season's beard, complete with a massive amount of hair care products and supplements for a healthier and stronger beard to survive the harsh process of turning my young beard into a more Kringle worthy look.
As the season quickly approached, there were props and additions large and small that were added. A packed schedule with more events being scheduled daily, parades, schools, hospitals, tree lightings, and more! There was even my Santa Claus concert; which required a myriad of additional planning and resources. There was no way to know what was coming up in my future...
November had arrived, the beard was looking good and the schedule was now packed. Mid November, on a brisk morning walking to my classroom to direct my children's chorus, and carrying their newly arrived tshirts, I took a fall that would change everything.
I knew something terrible had happened but it would be another week before I'd discover I was out for the count. Having suffered a fracture and obliterating the tendons in my right foot, there would be two surgeries to try and correct the issues caused by my swan dive. There is projected a total of two to three months before I will start to walk again. And my foot is currently littered with screws and plates that will cause any TSA agent a little apprehension.
So, I will not lie, I will not hide it...I was angry...REALLY angry. I probably spend 20-30 hours each week volunteering my time to others, I'm involved on numerous boards in the community, I support various charities, and more. I'm not boasting...I'm just saying, I'm one of the good guys, and I was angry. My anger initially was directed at myself, angry for not having paid more attention, angry that I was the cause of such a massive amount of stress. My anger then turned to God, why did I have to deal with this!? Why did I have to be tested in this way!? It just wasn't fair! My internal child-like tantrum did not last long, it was probably needed, as this was a growing opportunity. I was given a few moments of clarity in my life, and learned of a few trials going on in friends lives that had me feeling guilty for my outburst.
Why was I going through this all? Well, because I had something to learn, something to experience, perhaps an example to set, and in the end...because I'd be just fine and stronger in the end.
It was devastating making those calls to cancel my appearances. With each one, I wanted to just cry. It wasn't too bad with my corporate events, but when I had to tell families, and hospitals I wouldn't be able to make it...I could hear there sadness and it broke my heart. I had visits planned for children on hospice, I had numerous charity events, I had the preemies at the Children's Hospitals...all cancelled, special visits that Santa would not make.
Despite two days out of surgery, I managed to get through my Santa show, performing through the haze of heavy pain killers. I truly don't remember that much of the show but everyone loved it, I just knew...it was NOT the show I had planned and look forward to being at 100% next year. That being said, I was able to reach out to a young girl who left me a touching letter and I felt I made a difference for her.
I was able to return with a few adjustments to the America's Children's Holiday Parade. It was an event that I really was able to enjoy in the moment. They were kind enough to put together a new sleigh that I could get in with my broken foot and we made a cast cover that closely matched my Santa boots.
My other events that I was able to manage were charity, a pancake breakfast, and a few schools...all a bit different because I lacked the ability to walk around and mingle.
Last night I had two of my last opportunities for the season. I had donated a "Santa visit" for charity last Spring and the local Vice Mayor won the opportunity. While I had planned to visit his home, we were able to arrange him to come to my house. He brought his sweet son, a young man with autism to visit. I had many things memorized and at the ready from his teacher and dog's name, to his favorite toys. I was told he would not want to be close to me and that I would not be able to understand him.
It took a few minutes, trying a few different things to interact with him with my experience with autistic children...he soon was in my lap, and cuddling with Santa. He wanted to be held, he wanted to hold my hand, and hug me. We had a conversation, and while the parents were there to translate, I understood his words, I could see his excitement.
I had heard that he loved dinosaurs, so I took out one of my books in my collection, "How do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?" While sitting on my knee, he and I read the book, taking turns sounding out the words. I had not planned it, but as he was about to leave, I check my "Naught & Nice" watch, I told him he was being such a wonderful example for us all, and told him I'd like to give him an early Christmas gift. I hugged him and handed him the book. I cannot express in words his reaction but to say it was pure joy.
Shortly after this wonderful family left, a neighbor dropped by with their family, and a 6 month old little guy that would not take a picture with Santa...they had tried 3 times. They came to try immediately but I said, let's wait. We chatted, and the little guy just soaked it all up with bright eyes. It seemed he had warmed up a bit and we finally tried, he came to me and by the end, was resting his head on my shoulder.
The moments this year as Santa, for me, were few and far between but they were incredible moments. I'm feeling now, knowing I'm all done for the year, fulfilled and blessed. What an amazing opportunity we have and what a blessing it is to be invited into these families lives and to participate in such a unique way in sharing the Christmas season. I have been blessed with so much and even getting in my suit once and seeing someone through the eyes of Santa, makes it all worth it. My extra time with my family has been such a blessing too and seeing so many friends and family gather around to support us has been humbling.
Next year will be here before we know it, and I look forward to a season where I'm walking again. This season will surely be a season to remember and I'm grateful for all I've learned through my own struggles on how to be a better Santa and not take things for granted.
I wish you, my fellow Clausnet friends, an amazing and wonderful end to your season and a happy and prosperous new year. Thank you for all you do and for the examples and lessons you teach and provide me...this is an amazing community and I feel honored to be a part of it.