Santa’s Nose: An Observational Piece From “The Chair”

One of the greatest gifts of being Santa is the opportunity to observe people for hours at a time without being a stalker: they come to you. And want pictures of you. As a result, you see a lot of different types, and experience a lot of different smells.

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The nose knows.

The nose knows.

Sometimes, like in the picture above, it’s the smell of wine, baklava, small children, leather, perfume, and dear friends. With a little cigarette smoke clinging to clothing in the winter air dragged into the room as well.

Other times it’s the smell of quiet desperation when mom asks you to pray for her little boy. Her words, “The cancer came back four weeks ago” sent a shock through my heart and caused my nose to run as the tears stung my eyes. The freshly washed hair of that little fellow no longer rang in my nostrils, but was replaced by a downcast scent that I hoped was not doom.

The fragrant aroma of dryer sheets and mothballs is a frequent one, as people pull the very best sweaters out of the closet for that special picture, and make sure that their Disney Princess clad daughter has a freshly laundered ball gown to wear for the day.

A young man with cookie crumbs on his lips, and a light coating of sweat on his forehead from the frustration of autism, and a noisy room, is vibrant to the nostrils. It vanishes as you extend a white-gloved hand to calm the tremors and it is accepted, and gently held, as he communicates his thoughts to Santa. If only you could hold that hand forever and ease the pain he knows in his every minute.

Cookies, peppermint, and chocolate wander into the nose every few minutes: these are the staples of Christmas.

Curry, peppers, and soy sauce are delightful additions to the mix. Often clinging to the clothing of a mother as she brings her little ones for the photo, sometimes coming right from her pores as she’s worked up a sweat herding small children to the chair. The history of vast continents comes forth in the rich skin tones and dark hair of my guests, confirmed by coriander and mint on special days.

Other times it’s the Frito like scent of a dog’s paws as they climb up on Santa for the picture. Pet days are rare anymore, but each dog smells a little bit different from its friends, just like people.

Loaded diapers, nervous tingles of urine, and sour formula are the reminders that you’re holding one of God’s newest creations in the crook of your arms. Parents trust Santa not to drop their precious baby, and I’m determined never to fail in that task.

Garbage, floor wax, and automotive lubricants are part of the mix when working moms and dads bring their little ones to see Santa at the end of a Saturday work day. Hard working people who love their children and come right from their jobs are always welcome in my kingdom.

Tears and fright have their own smells. Sometimes it’s because Santa is 10 times their size and has a scratchy beard. Sometimes it’s because their son in the Rangers is leaving for a combat tour in some remote part of the world. Either way, comfort and prayers are the response to my olfactory intuition.

Home made bakery, lovingly wrapped in a napkin, or bit of foil, carries sugar and almonds to my nose – right before it’s secreted in my bag to be enjoyed later. The scents vary, but they include vanilla, mint, fruitcake, brandy, whiskey, honey, puff pastry, and almost any other scent associated with the gift of baked goods from your oven at home. Almost always delivered by a smiling child who has a gift for Santa. I love those gifts. They mean a lot to me.

Last of all, but still vital, the smell of contentment is unique. I don’t get that one quite as often as I’d like, but it’s the one that smiling people give off when the world is revolving in their direction that day. It’s the scent I hope to find and pray will be gifted to all who visit me.

I hope the next time we meet you are able to tickle my nose with the last scent. I wish and pray for you to be contented this day, and all the rest of your days.

Be blessed. I’ll be back later this week.

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