My wife decided years ago that every year, on the morning of Christmas Eve, we would get pictures with Santa. The city of Birmingham, Michigan has a lovely downtown, the loveliest that tax money and exorbitant rent can buy, and has a picturesque central park, worthy of an Instagram selfie. In that picture-perfect park is the most adorable, post-card worthy Santa house. Norman Rockwell himself couldn’t paint anything more charming. The Santa house, and Santa, are available for pictures starting as early as Thanksgiving, but we do it Christmas Eve morning in order to make the day, reserved for true, last-minute shopping, wrapping, a nail appointment, and Church …we add this little event to make the day just a little more stressful.
“Why do today what you can put off until the last minute” is my wife’s motto.
The Santa house opens at 10:00 a.m.
I, alone, get there at 9:00a.m. and wait. And wait. Most years the temperatures are well below freezing. I grumble under my breath to stay warm. Grumpiness produces steam heat, ya know? Many times my toes and fingers start going numb. You’d think Birmingham would have mobile heating tents. It’s not like I don’t pay enough at the parking meters (.25-cents gets you 15-minutes) or in parking tickets (maximum meter time is 1-hour).
The kids also grumble. They wonder why, as teenagers, they still must dress in their pajamas, be dragged into festive, quaint, downtown Birmingham and get a photo with Santa, whom (spoiler alert) they stopped believing in years ago.
The easy answer to this question is, “to make Mom cry.” Make her cry now, a month from now, a year from now, and for the rest of the years of her life. As time keeps marching on and our oldest nears her senior year of high-school and our youngest nears her first year of high-school, the sadness and nostalgia are found everywhere for their Mom.
So, yes, we do this to make Mom cry.
I have my Blog, Instagram, Facebook, journal, and Twitter where I share and document everything from my choice in shoes, my lung stuff, and Stuff I Want. My wife has a more simple approach (and probably more normal). She has these annual photos as her journal on life. Unlike me and how I document my life, for my wife, a photo is a launching point into an entire recreation of time and space. I look at a photo and ask, “where was this photo taken,” and, “what year was that,” and, “who is that blond hair girl in the photo,” and, “oh, right, that’s my oldest daughter, Marylin.”
Not my wife. Any picture, for her, is a window in time. She can look at a photo from 2016 and tell you everything… “that was the Christmas after my Mom died, and the kids were in 4th, 6th, and 8th grade and their teachers were so-and-so and so-and-so and Ada had a cold, and my Dad had gout, your sister’s roast was a little dry*, and you bought me that robe and those ugly slippers, and Jimmy’s big present was the PlayStation, and there was a dusting of snow, but it was really cold and we were just about to start our kitchen project and Marylin got her braces off and…”
It’s like she jumps into the picture and walks around on the other side of the photo in the day, year, and time it was taken. And she’ll look at me, puzzled, and ask, “you don’t remember that? Sure you do? I bought you those shoes and that cast iron pan. Your Dad and sister argued** at Christmas Eve about the best way to hard-boil eggs and then, remember? It snowed like crazy and it took an hour to get to her house and you vowed to get snow tires, and …”
No. I never remember stuff like that. Not without checking my journal or my notes. I mean, I kinda remember but usually I combine memories and add things from 2014 into my 2016 memories, and forget some things entirely, and I even imagine and make-up other things.
“I absolutely remember wearing a wrapping paper pattern tuxedo the Christmas Eve Mass,” I’ll insist.
But I’m wrong. And I know it. But I hold firm.
My wife remembers exactly what I wore and the dresses each of our daughters wore. It’s magical. And a little scary. Scary that I won’t ever win many arguments where facts and examples are needed.
This tradition, we joke, is only for my wife, when it’s actually for all of us. Years from now, when all our memories blur or are buried deep in our brains, we’ll likely pull out one of my wife’s never-finished scrapbooks and we might see these pictures and it will be our own version of “The Night Before Christmas” and my wife will cry her way through the stories and memories of every cold, frost-bitten year and we’ll be glad she dragged us out to Santa House every year.
May your memories, traditions, arguments, and time with loved ones never end and live forever in your memory. If you need help remembering, get a picture with Santa.
* the roast was NEVER dry and my wife NEVER said anything like that; comment entirely fabricated and used for comedic effect and to solicit a disapproving frown and furrowed brow from both my wife and sister; also used as a tool to prove whether or not my wife and sister read my Blog entries
** there was never an argument about the proper way to boil eggs; example entirely fabricated and used for comedic effect and to, once again, check if my sister or my Dad read my Blog when they insist it never happened and I should probably edit that and not include any reference to either of them on my Blog