Cleaning Up The Sleigh

The fat guy in the red suit is back in the closet for a while after 35 events in 25 days. How long until he’s back? Never know, so I always have a suit ready to go on a one-hour notice. But as of a few days ago, all the thank-you notes had been sent. The schedule for 2015 is up at www.santajoe.com.

Yes, I am booked years in advance, and if I don’t get it published right away there are people wondering if I’ve forgotten them. If you are looking for a Santa in the Twin Cities, hit the schedule and see if I’m available. Just remember: If I’m out performing I’ve left a heavily armed Sheltie behind a ring a of steel and an alarm system. Did I mention most of my neighbors are armed and nosy?

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Every year since I became Santa the amount of baggage has shifted and changed. It started with one suit and a green bag. Then came stockings that I stuffed with chocolates and toys for the children I visited.

A second suit was acquired, along with another bag. The annual candy purchases got out of control as I grew the business. You had to have spares because when Mom said there’d be 14 kids at the party, it failed to take into account the two nephews and the neighbor girl who were invited at the last minute. I don’t know about you, but handing out gifts to 14 of 17 children at a Christmas gathering wasn’t going to cut it for me. I was burned once and then started bringing spares.

That meant I needed more stockings, and a couple of Santa hats for the people serving as my helpers. Naturally I needed a couple of story books to read, eventually adding a Bible. You find very quickly that the attention span of tired children is incredibly short, and the best stories are a bit long. So you start reading “Santa Mouse” (a personal favorite) to the younger set, and save “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” for the six year olds who truly appreciate the fact that Santa can do all the voices and read the book upside down.

(*Personal Trivia Warning: I own a copy of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” in Latin. The French and Spanish editions are in the mail. The German version is over $100. So if any of you are in Germany, or traveling there, I’ll gladly buy a copy through you if you’d be so kind. Flat fee of $25.00 to cover the book and a schnapps at the airport. Contac me via email if you’re interested.)

In the last 15 years I’ve grown the pile of Santa stuff to the point where I have a full photo studio that can travel, 11 Santa Suits (used to be 12, gave one as a starter to a good friend who’d finally grown a good beard,) two pairs of boots, six santa bags, innumerable hats, antlers, bells, appropriate under shirts (must be red, found out white shows through on some of the older suits,) and a really great belt and buckle.

This means that my house needs help after the season. Last year one suit was hanging in the spare bedroom “airing” for the full year. Stuff on the floor, etc. My wife was kind about not setting me on fire in my sleep. I just didn’t get around to properly stowing it all.

This year was different. I spent four hours shining belts and buckles, packing up spare fur and Velcro (suit repair material,) and sorting out suits. They are now hung in a logical order in two different armoires. The one in the spare bedroom is dedicated to Saint Nicholas. That one has neatly rolled Santa bags on the top shelf. They are next to the hats and the belt. The buckle is in a soft bag so it won’t scratch.

Next to the bells/buckles/belts/hats is a stack of Christmas books. They wear out eventually. But more importantly, if a youngster helps me out by flipping pages well they get the book as a souvenir. I write a nice note in the front before they go in the bag. Talk about a keepsake! Some of those books were discovered on Friday as I put things away in the attic. I found two containers full of toys, stockings, hats, and books. And another bag of fur.

Fur is what makes the suit look good. I change fur on the suits once they’re dirty. I designed the suits to make it easy. But good fur isn’t always on the market. I went a few years with some really crappy stuff, but that’s all that the big stores were stocking. No longer an issue, I bought two bolts of the good stuff last year. In a reminder of my mortality, I figure that will last me until the end of my days.

The closet also holds my nebulizer for those days when the asthma is too much to cope with. Great, a guy who flies at altitudes more fitting for reconnaissance aircraft has cold weather asthma. Another reminder of God having an expiration date on this model.

Last, but not least, there’s a blue hat in that closet full of Santa stuff. I bought it over thirty years ago when I was in basic training in San Diego. It says “Cryptologic Technician” on the front. I was not allowed to wear it until I’d finished training. I don’t think I’ve worn it more than five times in thirty years. But it’s every bit as much how I think of myself as when I see pictures of me as Santa.

Some core items truly form us. I started out my final identity as a police officer. Moved on to spook, and now I’m a jolly old Santa. Not a bad transition. The three of them all live inside of me. They get along. All are protectors of the weak.

Most of all, and this is where this whole thing started out, the house looks good. All the things that don’t belong are put where they do. Like us: each of us has parts of our identity that don’t come out often, stored away for when we need them.

I count that as a blessing. So does my wife: she can finally get to the back bookshelf in that room.

Happy New Year!

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