For Maine Santas, It’s All in the Line of Duty
Mahoosuc Mills is just buzzing this week! Everyone’s busy getting ready for our Down Home Holiday Festival. It used to be the Down Home “Christmas” Festival, but we are now “politically correct.” The St. Hyacinth’s Christmas Bazaar is part of the festival. I guess we should change it to “Holiday” Bazaar, but hey, we’re Catholics! Who are we kidding?
The festival is a lot of fun. All the stores are open and the town is decorated real cute. The Kiwanis sell trees in the vacant lot where Pomerleau’s store used to be. There’s a horse-drawn sled for the kids out in Bucky DuMont’s field. And on Enchanted Mountain, the little bunny slope with a rope tow at the edge of town, the Rotary club makes an ice slide, and there’s a toboggan race (helmets required). The festival is always the second weekend of December, and people come from all over to experience our down-home holiday cheer.
On Friday evenings during the festival, I volunteer as Santa’s helper down to the Community Center. I used to dress up as an elf, but I’m getting a little long in the tooth for that, so I’ve graduated to Mrs. Claus. My husband, Charlie, is Santa.
Charlie and me both have beautiful red velveteen outfits with white fake fur trim that Madame Cloutier made for us, good quality white wigs, little wire frame glasses, and Charlie has this wonderful white beard we ordered special from the Santa Catalogue. Charlie also wears an athletic cup; he learned the hard way, more than once. A parent picks up their toddler and hands him to Santa, but on the approach, that kid starts kicking, and before you know it, bang! Santa is singing in the Vienna Boys Choir!
So last year, there’s a line out the door waiting to see Santa. Children are chattering, fidgeting, whining — you know the drill. When all of a sudden, Santa’s volunteer fireman beeper goes off. I look at Charlie. He looks at me. What could he do? So, Santa stands up and walks toward the door. “Okay,” I tell everybody, “Keep your place in line. Santa’s going to take a little break, and he’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”
Oh, the looks on those parent’s faces! Kids crying, “Where’s Santa going?” “Hey Santa, what about me?” Oh, it was heartbreaking! Then, once Santa leaves the building, they all turn and stare at me. I’m starting to get a little dewy in all that red velveteen, my heart pounding hard, but I knew if I let them see my fear, they’d attack! So, Mrs. Claus took a deep breath and began, “Now, who can name all of Santa’s reindeer?”
Meanwhile, Charlie’s hoofing it for the fire station. It’s only a block away. (Let’s face it, everything in downtown Mahoosuc Mills is only a block away.) Charlie changes direction when he sees the fire truck heading for the Busy Bee.
As Charlie walks up he sees people standing on the sidewalk. There’s smoke coming out the back of the Busy Bee Restaurant. Shirley’s husband Junior hands Charlie a fire hat, and he replaces his Santa cap with it.
“Santa,” a little girl asks. “Are you a fireman, too?”
“Yes, I am,” says Charlie, thinking fast. “That’s why my sleigh is red.”
Charlie and the other firemen go in. After making sure there are no children around, Charlie takes off his Santa beard. That thing is highly flammable, and he didn’t want to take any chances. Turns out it was just a small fire in the trashcan of the men’s room, not even enough heat to make the sprinklers go off. Which was a good thing, because that always makes such a mess. Charlie let the boys deal with the problem, so he wouldn’t mess up his suit.
So, he puts his beard and red hat back on, and begins heading back to the Community Center, where Mrs. Claus and about fifty cranky kids and their disgruntled parents are having a night to remember. We went over the names of Santa’s reindeer. That took all of a minute. I was going to read “The Night Before Christmas,” but no one had a copy. So, we moved on to a Christmas Carol sing-along, which also went by pretty quick because I could only remember the chorus and maybe one verse to just a handful of songs. By now, Mrs. Claus has gone from a little dewy, past perspiration, and into a cold sweat. Next up, I’m thinking, “New Years Resolutions,” then on to “What I did on my Summer Vacation.”
Meanwhile, as Charlie’s strolling back to Santa duty, he hears a sound coming from behind a tree in front of Town Hall. At first, he thought it was an animal in trouble. Then he realizes it’s a kid, crying. Turns out, it was little Timmy Bodge, who was about seven at the time.
“What’s the matter, Timmy?”
“Santa! How did you know my name?”
“Well, Timmy, I see you when you’re sleeping. I know when you’re awake. I know when you’ve been bad or good. Have you been a bad boy, Timmy?”
See, Timmy’s brothers were always in some sort of trouble. Frankie even did a little time down to the Juvie. So far, though, Timmy had been a pretty good kid. Charlie wanted to scare him into staying that way. And besides, at that moment, Timmy was looking very guilty. “I’ll ask you again. Have you been a bad boy, Timmy?”
“That was a yes or no question, Timmy. You’re wasting Santa’s time. Am I going to have to go back to the North Pole and cross you off my list?”
“No, Santa! Please don’t do that! I, I didn’t mean to start the fire! See, I, I took a couple of my Mom’s cigarettes, which I figure isn’t that bad because she’s always saying how they’ll give her cancer. So really, I’m helping her out. And then, and then, I went into the Busy Bee to take a pee. And then, while I was in there, and I decided to try a cigarette. And I just got it lit when I thought I heard someone coming, so I dropped it in the trash can, and this fire started! I tried to put it out, Santa, but I just couldn’t! So I got scared and ran out the back door. I didn’t mean to start the fire, Santa! Honest! Please don’t cross me off your list!”
“Well, in order for that to happen, you’re going to have to do a few things for me, Timmy. First, you’re going to have to apologize to Mr. and Mrs. Delahunt for starting a fire in their restaurant. And next Saturday, I want you to report to the Fire Station, help them clean out the storeroom. Finally, you’re going to have to promise to be a good boy from now on.”
“I promise, Santa!”
“Swear on Rudolph’s nose?”
“I swear on Rudolph’s nose! I’ll be a good boy from now on!”
Aw, heartwarming, isn’t it? Unless you happen to be back at the Community Center, dressed head to toe in red velveteen, with a white wig, showing everyone how to country line dance. In my opinion, Timmy Bodge got off way too easy. If you think I’m being hard on him, then you must have missed last year’s hit YouTube video featuring yours truly, entitled “Mrs. Claus Teaches the Electric Slide.”
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here.)