"You're Mr. Cwabby this Chwissmiss!"
So said my kids one holiday season when they were runts once upon a time.
The shopping. The wrapping. The doing. The going.
The neighbors, their partying 'round the food, the music, the wine.
"Fun's no fun," said Mr. Cwabby this Chwissmiss -- Yup, that was my line.
Once upon a time.
A guy in my company -- dorky and elfish -- had a simple question one day.
"I'm taking my team to dinner tomorrow night, downtown at Daytons. It's for families, the kids. You wanna be Santa?"
Oh my what a stupid idea, flashed through my head.
"Yah, sure, love to do it," I said to Dorkus-the-Elf.
"Great, here's your Santa suit. Ho, Ho , Ho."
"Yah. Great!" I said. "This will be fun."
No it won't. Not even close. Mr. Cwabby this Chwissmiss couldn't wait for this Chwissmas to be done.
My mood the next day inspired uplifting words from Mrs. Claus, as I left our home, Christmas Cottage, in a hurry, tripping the trash.
"....and shove it, you and your crappy attitude, you big pain in the ass..."
Her encouragement kept flowing, though -- a lucky husband am I -- none of it penetrated the shatterproof window sealing my Saab four-door on the driver's side.
"Hi Ho. Hi Ho. Hi Ho-Ho-Ho. Off to work I go," I sang. "Just like Santa Claus. Just like Santa Claus. Right down Santa Claus Lane..."
The five o'clock bell rang and I was late.
Gotta get downtown. Turn into Santa. Rush to this dinner. Then get home where Mrs. Claus couldn't wait to have ol' St.-you-come-up-with-any-other-name-that-rhymes-with-Nick walk through the front gate.
But here's the thing I wished I'd knew. There's no rushing Santa.
When you suit up, you're not in charge. Why, you're not even you.
This was my first lesson after popping out the elevator to cross the skyway to walk into Daytons to jump on another elevator to rush twelve stories up to the restaurant up top to appear at a family dinner to get this dang Chwissmiss business over with.
Just then, something began yanking the pinky on my right hand.
It was a little kid looking up at...Mr. Cwabby this Chwissmiss...a guy in a Santa getup...a guy who was no longer me.
I looked back, not sure what to say, except lucky it wasn't what my brain was screaming away, "Aw, what the heck, c'mon kid. I gotta get to this dinner. I'm running late...."
"Santa," said the kid named Clarence, softly, gently in his tiny kid voice, just louder than a whisper. "Merry Christmas, Santa."
Your brain ever go "Ping!" with a DEFCON ONE horn ringing "Danger!" or "Watch It!" or "Dude, don't screw this up or you will ruin little Clarence for the rest of his life!"
It was like Prophet Isaiah raced back through the ages, making a guest appearance inside my head.
Raise your eyes and look about...Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow...
The prophet's right.
In an instant this little kid made Mr. Cwabby this Chwissmiss something no one would've believed at all.
Clarence, the kid in a skyway, grew me a heart like the Grinch when it grew ten sizes too tall.
"Why thank you and Merry Christmas to you young man," this new Santa said.
Dinner with Dorkus and his families was typical schtick.
Smiley moms and serious dads with their Christmas red velvet wines and their happy holiday purpled lips and their kids like all others, excited little popcorns popping all around a fired-up pan that had lost its cover.
Santa made his pitch that he'd made all his life.
"Ho. Ho. Ho. Remember to be good little boys and girls," he said to all as he wished them all a good night.
On his way out the door and from out of the blue, why another pinky yanked and he wondered, "Huh?"
Which was followed by "Who...?"
And then looking down Santa saw a young lady. Maybe not four. But, yes, she was older than two.
A little kid who looked to be the twin sister of someone he thought he knew.
"Why, she looks just like her," the jolly ol' man said to himself.
"Why, it must be the sister of the infamous Grinchster, Cindy-Lou Who.
"Now what might she," he wondered, "want Santa to do?"
"Santa will you come and meet my family?" this little girl said.
Santa's thoughts raced back to the skyway and to Clarence the kid. And to Prophet Isaiah and back to the Grinch.
All this stuff went fastly, all right through his head and then down through his heart which got bigger again.
"Oh my, yes," said Santa. "Show me your family and your mom and your dad."
There Santa found her sisters and her brothers.
And on either side of a long Christmas table was her father and her mother.
And then looking up and over and beyond the crew sat an older gent, giddy, his face filled with smiles and perfect square teeth as white as the bright on a Christmas tree light.
'Twas someone Santa recognized as someone he knew.
"Could it? Might it? How can this possibly be?" said Santa upon sighting the man heading Christmas table.
He looked his usual fit and trim; looking, as usual, tanner than us upper midwesterners in the midst of December.
So though this fellow hadn't a clue, Santa was certain of who he saw and now what he must do.
"Well, Darrell, have you been a good little boy this year?" asked Santa with cheer, twinkling his eyes into the eyes of this fellow who'd for ages been Santa's financial retirement planner.
Darrell's smile went crooked as his wife shouted "Darrell, WHO'S THIS?"
As Cindy-Lou Who's twin pulled more of my pinky,
As her sisters and brothers and their father and their mother jiggled and giggled,
As all I could say is the funnest thing a once-upon-a-time-Mr. Cwabby-this-Chwissmiss was saying often this day,
"Has Darrell been a good little boy this year?"
My financial retirement planner didn't know what to say, his head bobbing my way, then bobbing to his wife who's head too was bobbing my way, then bobbing to Darrell, us three old knobs at Christmas table bobbing away.
"Darrell, WHO'S THIS?" I heard her once more say, as poor Darrell befuddled like he'd tripped in a puddle and all he could do was struggle.
How hard this must have been for the man who was the planner;
Who was forever fitter and tanner and trimmer than most;
Who'd made a wonderful life cashing in answers;
Who this eve in midst of Christmas could do nothing but...shruggle,
"I'm thinking, I'm guessing, oh my Dear, what do I know?
"It's Santa right here!
"I'm thinking. I'm guessing. I hope."
"Oh yes!" I thought.
Darrell did see too what I myself this eve was seeing.
It was Santa we saw.
Two macho breadwinning men, finally noticing that magic is real no matter the season.
And that was good enough reason for me to believe there's a Santa even if he happens to be the used-to-be-Mr. Cwabby-this-Chwissmiss, yup, the-once-upon-a-time-that'd-been-me.
"Ho, Ho, Ho," said Santa. "Merry Christmas to you and to all a good night."
Then off he dashed. His work all done.
"Fun's again fun," he thought to himself as he retraced his steps down twelve floors, over and across the skyway through the next elevator door when this Christmas night became like a TV movie, whose word from the sponsor said,
"But wait there's more!"
Just as Santa's last lift stopped lifting and opened its gate, why, there stood a pretty young lady alone with her date.
Santa blinked his eyes hard and took one look which was followed then by another, making it a full double-double take-take.
"Could it? Might it? How can this possibly be?" Santa asked under his breath before greeting the happily, holidating young lady he'd known way back to the elementary grade, who had no clue what Santa could do, the trickster chuckling and smiling as he about scared her to death.
"Has Krissy been a good little girl?" asked Santa, his twinkling eyes boring in on the lady who's head then abruptly bobbed like a nervous wreck, bobbing to her date, a fellow named Bob who questioned his lady.
"Kris, WHO'S THIS?!!!!"
Bob needed to know as Kris just grinned straight ahead with her own crooked smile, bobbing at me, as I was bobbing at Bob who was bobbing at Kris; another trio on this night of all nights of bobbing old knobs.
"Ho. Ho. Ho. Merry Christmas, Kris, to you and your family.
"No worries, Santa knows you're a fine young lady. But really I must go as I've been too long in keeping lovely Mrs. Claus awaiting."
As Kris and Bob bobbed away, you couldn't hear their words as loud as you could hear the thoughts inside their heads; sounds of jingle and jangle from all their noodling just as Darrell upstairs.
"We're thinking, we're guessing, oh dear, what do we know?
"It's Santa right here! We're thinking. We're guessing. We hope."
I finally pulled back home into our lane, in front of Christmas Cottage with Mrs. Claus waiting and unlatching our gate.
With her last words still ringing, I thought instead of me speaking, it's best to let Santa have this say.
"Ho, Ho, Ho," he said as she slightly smirked -- Mrs. Claus is well-known for not being easily worked.
She looked long into his eyes, silent, then saying,
"You know, Santa you are always welcome here. You can come in.
"But that other guy, Mr. Cwabby this Chwissmiss, you let that guy know he's gotta go.
"'Go buy a North Pole ticket in coach on your next flying sleigh,
"And tell him,
"'Make sure your ticket's one-way.'"
"You are right. I'm sorry," I said.
"Three Ho's and many thanks, my Love, for your patience and grace."
And for Clarence the kid who I met in a skyway and for Prophet Isaiah and a little look-alike Who and my financial retirement planner, who like Kris and her Bob, who'd had not a clue.
Tonight showed Mr. Cwabby this Chwissmiss a Santa he'd never knew.
Santa's more than a tale who comes 'round once a year.
Why, Santa's a way. A lesson of living a life.
Santa's not just a story you tell.
But a story you do.
"Yes, it's Merry Christmas tonight.
"But wait, there's more!
"It's Merry Christmas every day for the rest of our life."
A book is a wonderful holiday gift. Fridays Post suggests LOVE, YOUR MOTHER