For the 26 years we've shared Christmas, Big Daddy and I have had a Santa picture taken, sometimes with kids and sometimes not. When I get all the pictures out each Christmas, they make a mini-montage of our lives together. There's no denying the aging process has been hard at work, and there's quite an array of hairstyles and hair color captured for posterity.
And then there are the stories the photos evoke. One of my favorites is of the year my parents were visiting from Wyoming in time to be included in the Santa picture. Big Daddy, a costume-loving nut case, decided we were all going to wear a hat in the picture. He dug through closets and boxes until he had a dozen or more hats for the six of us.
We had an appointment with Santa at St. Louis Center, and Big Daddy was trying to herd us all into the car to get there on time. My dad, a somewhat crusty and absolutely hard-nosed retired Army colonel announced, "I'm not going to have my picture taken with Santa." As the kids began to sweetly coax him, my mother interrupted. "Charles," (She only called him by that name when she fully intended to usurp his 'authority' and take charge herself.) "You're going to have your picture taken with the rest of us. Now get in the car."
Once in the car, my dad announced, "I may be going with you, but I'm not having my picture taken with Santa." No one responded.
Once at the mall we stood in a long line of others with reservations, inching our way up an incline into a private room with Santa and his crew of elves and photographers. Big Daddy began passing out hats, and he handed one to my dad, who said, "Well I may be having my picture taken, but I'm not wearing a hat." Which prompted my mom to say, "Charles, choose a hat. You're holding up the line."
So my dad chose a hat. Several, in fact, and we still have some of the pictures to prove how much fun it was. I remember that it cost us a fortune in photo charges, but we had a great time repositioning ourselves around Santa each time we switched hats. My parents kept their copy in a little frame on a side table year-round. Long after my mom had died and my dad had moved into a nursing home a few blocks from our house, that photo hung on a cork board next to his bed, right along with others showing highlights of his grandkids' lives.
As we've gotten older, Big Daddy and I have taken a few shortcuts to keep the tradition alive, no longer having the patience for the mall Santa fiasco. Last year, we were Santa.
And this year we just stepped into the decor at the company Christmas party. This Santa's forever jolly, but don't you think he's looking a little waxy?